Novartis to Drop NHS Legal Case

Novartis LogoNovartis have announced that they are going to drop their legal case against an NHS body that was refusing to fund their eye drug Lucentis.

The case was expected to begin next week, but the Swiss firm confirmed that they “will [now] withdraw its request to the court for a judicial review.”

In April this year, Novartis declared that they would be driving through a judicial review over the Cluster’s policy to favour Roche’s cancer drug Avastin to treat the eye disease wet age-related macular oedema, although it is not licensed for the condition.

Roche’s drug was being used prior to Novartis’ chemically similar drug Lucentis, the only drug NICE-approved for the condition.

There is a large price difference between the two treatments when used for wet AMD, and the SHIP Cluster was able to radically decrease their £7.5 million bill that they spend each year on Lucentis by electing for Avastin.

But in an unforeseen move, Novartis lowered the UK price of Lucentis in July, which in turn allowed the Cluster to reverse its policy.  SHIP now recommends just using Lucentis for wet AMD.

These changes have consequently made the judicial review needless, and it now appears likely that the case, which was scheduled for the 8th October, will not go ahead.

NICE Scorecard

In the future the government is hoping to end similar issues, without the need for legal cases, by using their new NICE scorecard, which was released in September of this year.

The scorecard will name and shame NHS bodies not providing NICE-approved drugs to patients within three months of the regulatory watchdog’s guidance, and aims to have quicker uptake of these medications throughout the NHS.

This change should help stop other clusters following SHIP’s original policy, and will be a warning to all NHS bodies that draw up drug formularies not to ignore drugs that are determined to be cost-effective by NICE so they can save money.

Speaking at the ABPI conference this year, Stephen Whitehead, the chief executive of the ABPI, supported Novartis’ decision to sue, commenting that he though the firm would definitely win their case.

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