U.K. Says CAR-T Cell Therapy for Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Is Too Expensive

The U.K.’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has rejected the chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy axicabtagene ciloleucel for use by the country’s National Health Service (NHS), citing the high cost of the treatment. NICE, the U.K.’s health-care cost agency, issued its opinion just one day after the European Commission (EC) approved the non-Hodgkin lymphoma treatment for use in the European Union (EU).

The treatment’s manufacturer, Gilead Sciences, said it would continue to pursue discussions with the agency to “clarify how cell therapy may be made available to patients in the [U.K.].” The NICE decision has no impact on whether the expensive therapy will be available within the rest of the EU, where each country will decide whether and how it will fund the use of axicabtagene ciloleucel. The treatment, which carries a list price of $373,000 in the U.S., was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in October 2017.

Raj Chopra, PhD, the head of cancer therapeutics at the Institute of Cancer Research in London, expressed disappointment that patients in the U.K. would not have access to the drug. “If we’re going to see CAR T-cell therapy widely available on the NHS,” he said, “we need to find ways to reduce the costs.”

While axicabtagene ciloleucel is the first CAR-T cell therapy to be assessed by NICE, the agency is still evaluating tisagenlecleucel, a treatment for B-cell acute lymphocytic leukemia that also was approved by the EC in August.

Source: Reuters, August 28, 2018.