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UK rejects Roche’s Avastin in advanced breast cancer

LONDON (Reuters) – Roche Holding AG’s cancer drug Avastin (bevacizumab) has been rejected by Britain’s healthcare cost agency as a first-line treatment for advanced breast cancer, the latest in a series of setbacks for this medicine.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) said on Friday that although Avastin, when used in combination with Xeloda (capecitabine) could prolong progression-free survival, compared to chemotherapy alone, it did not appear to improve overall survival.

There were also question marks over whether or not Avastin could improve a patient’s quality of life, according to NICE’s Chief Executive Andrew Dillon.

“Taking these uncertainties into account as well as the high cost of the drug, the committee concluded that bevacizumab was not a cost-effective use of National Health Service resources,” Dillon said in a statement.

Drug regulators in the United States withdrew their approval of Avastin for breast cancer last year, saying the drug was not effective enough to justify its risks even if patients believe it has helped them live longer.

According to NICE’s information, Avastin is available in 100-mg and 400-mg vials costing 242.66 pounds ($380) and 924.40 pounds ($1,400) each, respectively. For an average patient, the monthly cost of the drug would be around 3,689 pounds ($5,700).

Roche said it was unhappy about NICE’s ruling.

“This is disappointing because Avastin in combination with capecitabine has proven to be an important treatment option for women who have a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer, which has a poor prognosis,” the Swiss drugmaker said in a statement.

NICE had been reviewing the use of Avastin with Xeloda as a first-line treatment of breast cancer that has spread in patients for whom treatment with other chemotherapy options is not considered appropriate.