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UK cost body seeks more info on melanoma pill Zelboraf (vemurafenib)

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s healthcare cost agency said on Friday it needed more information from Roche before it could decide whether to recommend the Swiss group’s new melanoma pill Zelboraf (vemurafenib) for use on the state health service.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) previously rejected the drug in a preliminary ruling in June.

While Roche has submitted additional analysis on the cost effectiveness of the drug since then, NICE said it needed further clarification.

Zelboraf was approved in Europe in February and has been hailed as a prime example of personalized medicine since it is designed to treat melanoma patients with a particular genetic mutation.

It costs 1,750 pounds ($2,700) for a week’s supply, although Roche has offered a discount, details of which are commercially confidential.

The snub for Zelboraf marks the latest in a series of clashes between Roche and NICE over cancer medicines, including a rejection of its $6 billion-per-year seller Avastin (bevacizumab).

NICE, whose decisions are closely watched in other countries, has also angered other drugmakers, although it has many supporters among medics who say a central body is needed to make rational decisions on how to spend scarce resources.