Bloomberg

(Bloomberg) -- A Novartis AG heart drug that’s struggled to gain acceptance in the U.S. won the backing of a U.K. panel as a cost-effective treatment, even without a price discount.

Entresto, as the drug is called, was recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence for patients with a weakened heart that can’t efficiently pump blood to the body and who aren’t helped by other medicines. About a quarter of the 410,000 heart-failure patients in England meet those criteria, and most of them are almost constantly bedbound.

Europe is proving surprisingly swift to adopt Entresto whereas in the U.S., the biggest market for pharmaceuticals, uptake has been slow as physicians hesitate to prescribe a drug that insurance companies don’t broadly cover.

In the first week Entresto was on the German market, more than 1,000 patients were on the therapy, David Epstein, CEO of Novartis’s pharmaceutical unit, said on a conference call in January. That compared with about 11,000 patients in the U.S., after the drug had been available for six months. In Switzerland, the adoption of the new treatment was more than five times as strong as it was in the U.S., according to Epstein.

Crucial Step

In the U.K., endorsement by NICE is a crucial step because the country’s state-run National Health Service relies on the regulator to help determine which therapies offer good value for money. NICE’s decisions can be contentious, such as when the body rejected Roche Holding AG’s breast-cancer medicine Kadcyla as too expensive following two years of haggling over the treatment’s cost.

A year of treatment with Entresto costs about 1,200 pounds ($1,750) per person, NICE estimated in the final guidance published Wednesday. That’s about 3 pounds per day, a third of the price in the U.S. Novartis didn’t offer the NHS a discount, according to NICE.

NICE concluded that Entresto is “an innovative drug that offers the potential to prevent deaths and reduce the more than 30,000 hospital admissions for this condition each year in England.” The panel also found the drug wasn’t worth its cost for patients who don’t have a severely reduced amount of blood leaving the heart each time it contracts, who show only mild symptoms or who haven’t taken hypertension medicines.

To contact the reporter on this story: Johannes Koch in Berlin at jkoch34@bloomberg.net. To contact the editors responsible for this story: Chitra Somayaji at csomayaji@bloomberg.net, Marthe Fourcade, Kristen Hallam

©2016 Bloomberg L.P.

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