LONDON, July 6 (Reuters) - Roche Holding AG's cancer drug Avastin 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 the chemotherapy drug Xeloda, could delay cancer from progressing longer than chemotherapy alone, it did not appear to help breast cancer patients live longer overall.
There were also question marks over whether or not Avastin, known generically as bevacizumab, could improve a patient's quality of life, according to NICE's Ch ief Executive A ndrew 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.
Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in Britain, with more than 48,000 women and around 300 men diagnosed with it each year.
Drug regulators in the United States withdrew their approval o f Avastin for breast cancer l ast year, s aying 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) ea ch, r espectively. 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 ca ncer, whi ch 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.