UK cost agency rejects leukaemia drug from J&J and AbbVie

LONDON A new leukaemia drug viewed by industry experts as a future blockbuster has been rejected by Britain’s healthcare cost-effectiveness agency NICE, which said it could not be confident the medicine represented an effective use of resources.

Imbruvica has a list price of 55,954.50 pounds ($78,000) a year, although it is being offered at an undisclosed discount to the National Health Service by European supplier Janssen, a unit of Johnson Johnson.

Janssen said on Wednesday it was “extremely disappointed” by the draft recommendation from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), which contrasted with decisions in 48 other countries to fund the medicine.

Imbruvica is the first in a new class of cancer drugs known as Burton’s tyrosine kinase inhibitors. Excitement over its prospects prompted AbbVie to buy Pharmacyclics, which developed the medicine with JJ, for $21 billion last year.

AbbVie expects it to sell $5 billion annually by 2020.

AstraZeneca, meanwhile, acquired a rival drug in the same class by purchasing 55 percent of privately held Acerta Pharma for $4 billion in December.

(Reporting by Ben Hirschler; editing by Susan Thomas)

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