NICE okays NHS funding for MS and eczema drugs

The UK’s NICE endorsed regular NHS funding for big-selling drugs from Roche and Sanofi, changing its mind in guidance for the multiple sclerosis and eczema drugs.

NICE had previously rejected Roche’s Ocrevus (ocrelizumab) for multiple sclerosis and Sanofi’s Dupixent (dupilumab) for eczema – scientific name atopic dermatitis – on cost-effectiveness grounds.

Ocrevus is already bringing in blockbuster level sales for Roche after one of the most successful ever MS launches last year, while Sanofi’s drug is expected to eventually break the billion-dollar annual sales barrier after a slower start.

But in an often-repeated pattern NICE has backed the drugs after securing confidential discounts from the manufacturers.

In the case of Ocrevus, which is approved for adults with relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis (RMS) with active disease, NICE has placed restrictions on its use.

The MS drug can only be used if Sanofi’s Lemtrada (alemtuzumab) is not suitable and as long as the discount agreed under a patient access scheme is applied.

As well as offering a confidential price cut, Roche also swung the decision in its favour in the final draft guidance with data comparing it indirectly with rivals such as Sanofi’s Aubagio, Biogen’s Tecfidera, and Teva’s Copaxone.

Even though NICE said that Ocrevus slowed disease progression faster in some, but not all of these treatments, the body noted that Roche’s drug is dosed infrequently and needs less monitoring.

A first dose is given in two infusions two weeks apart, and thereafter Ocrevus is given every six months and with fewer adverse events.


The story with Dupixent was similar – with NICE overturning a negative decision in its first draft guidance earlier this year.

In the final second draft, NICE okayed regular NHS funding for patients with moderate to severe atopic dermatitis after failure on at least one other systemic therapy.

NICE said that Dupixent is cost-effective in this use, although Sanofi has agreed that patients are to stop taking the drug after 16 weeks if they have not adequately responded.

Andrew Proctor, Chief Executive at the National Eczema Society, said: “Dupilumab represents a new way of treating atopic dermatitis and we are delighted that NICE has recognised the huge atopic dermatitis and we are delighted that NICE has recognised the huge challenges that some patients face in successfully managing their condition.”

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