Roche Secures U.K. NHS Coverage Nod for Tecentriq, Completes Flatiron Acquisition


Swiss pharma giant Roche has had an active April so far. The company has acquired a multiple sclerosis program, completed the acquisition of a company and secured a big win with the United Kingdom’s healthcare provider for lung cancer drug Tecentriq.

On Monday the U.K.’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommended coverage of Tecentriq by the National Health Service for patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) whose disease has progressed after chemotherapy, regardless of PD-L1 expression. That recommendation reversed a previous negative decision by NICE. Last year NICE expressed uncertainty over survival benefits in Tecentriq patients, as well as concerns over the cost of the Roche drug, FiercePharma reported. However, this week in its about-face, NICE said Tecentriq can “significantly extend the lives of patients with advanced NSCLC versus chemotherapy.”

In its report on the news, FiercePharma noted that in the U.K. there are about 44,500 lung cancer patients diagnosed annually. Of those patients, about 80 percent are diagnosed with NSCLC.

In March Roche subsidiary Genentech released interim data that showed a combination of Tecentriq and Avastin plus chemotherapy enabled NSCLC patients to live longer in comparison to patients who only received Avastin and chemotherapy treatments of carboplatin and paclitaxel.

In addition to the good news the company saw in the U.K., Roche also announced on Monday that it has completed the $1.9 billion acquisition of Flatiron Health. The deal for Flatiron was initially announced in February. Roche, which already had a 12.6 percent stake in Flatiron, snapped up the company as a key move in its personalized healthcare strategy. Flatiron Health developed its Health OncologyCloud platform that includes the industry-leading electronic medical record for oncology, advanced analytics, patient portal and integrated billing management. Its tech is an aggregating data resource that enables researchers to develop real-world insights into the ever-changing oncology landscape. Flatiron is expected to remain an independent company under the Roche umbrella.

Also this month Roche struck a deal to acquire a regenerative therapy program for multiple sclerosis from Inception Sciences. Roche and Inception have had a partnership for several years. Through this deal, Roche picked up the Inception 5 program, which is aimed at the discovery and development of small molecules that promote remyelination of nerve fibers damaged during the progression of multiple sclerosis. Last year the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Ocrevus, the first and only approved disease-modifying therapy for primary progressive form of MS. Ocrevus is a monoclonal antibody designed to target CD20-positive B cells, a specific type of immune cell thought to be a key contributor to myelin (nerve cell insulation and support) and axonal (nerve cell) damage.

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