UK backs use of Merck cancer immunotherapy after price discount

07 Sep, 2015 3:52 pm

LONDON – Britain’s healthcare cost-effectiveness watchdog NICE on Monday recommended use of Merck’s immunotherapy drug Keytruda, after the U.S. drugmaker promised to supply it to the state health service at a discounted price.

The move comes amid controversy over access to costly cancer medicines in the country. On Friday, a fund that helps patients receive cancer drugs not routinely paid for by the National Health Service said it would no longer pay for a number of medicines.

In the case of Merck’s drug, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) said in final draft guidance that it should made available for certain patients with advanced melanoma.

The drug costs about $150,000 for a year of treatment in the United States but will sell for less in Britain. The scale of the discount being offered to Britain’s health service is commercially confidential, NICE said.

Keytruda is a so-called anti PD-1 inhibitor, which works by making cancer cells ‘visible’ to the immune system and so open to attack. The drug received a speedy assessment in Britain under a recently introduced early access scheme for promising new treatments. -Reuters

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