Roche wins final UK okay for discounted Tarceva

LONDON (Reuters) - Roche Holding AG’s lung cancer drug Tarceva has won final approval for use by Britain’s state health service after the Swiss drugmaker agreed to discount the price of the medicine.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) now recommends Tarceva as an alternative to Sanofi-Aventis SA’s Taxotere for people who have already tried one chemotherapy regime without success.

But NICE, which decides which treatments should be funded by the state in England and Wales, said Roche’s drug should only be used if its overall treatment cost did not exceed that of Taxotere.

The new price for a 125-day course of Tarceva treatment is 6,128 pounds ($9,265), compared with a previous typical cost of 6,800 pounds.

NICE had originally recommended against Tarceva, arguing that buying the costly drug, also known as erlotinib, was not a good use of National Health Service (NHS) resources.

Tarceva — which is relatively unusual among cancer treatments in that it is given by mouth rather than injection — is one of a new generation of targeted drugs that attack only cancer cells, making them better tolerated than traditional chemotherapy.

It was licensed and launched in Britain in 2005 but Roche has since been fighting to get it paid for by the NHS.

Roche had already announced in October 2007 that it was cutting the British price of Tarceva as an interim measure.

Tarceva was discovered by OSI Pharmaceuticals Inc and further developed by Roche and Genentech Inc, which sells it in the United States.

(Reporting by Ben Hirschler; editing by Elaine Hardcastle)

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