From: Reuters
Published January 23, 2008 06:56 AM

UK agency stent decision now set for next week

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's medicines advisory agency is now planning to publish its latest recommendations on the cost-effectiveness of drug-coated stents late next week, in a decision that could draw fire from manufacturers.

A spokesman for the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) said on Wednesday the announcement is scheduled for late in the week beginning January 28. The decision, which had been expected before then, will be published on the agency's Web site.

Drug-coated versions of stents -- tiny, wire-mesh tubes used to prop open clogged arteries -- are a multibillion-dollar global business for companies like Boston Scientific, Johnson & Johnson, Medtronic and Abbott Laboratories.

But their use has fallen sharply in the past year or so on concerns they may sometimes cause blood clots.

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NICE caused a storm last August when its initial assessment concluded that drug-eluting stents were not worth the money when compared with older bare-metal ones. The difference in price is around 600 pounds ($1,175).

Morgan Stanley analysts have said companies could potentially offer price concessions to keep drug stents in use on Britain's state health service but would have to decide whether price cuts were commercially viable.

Since 1999, NICE has led the world in measuring the cost-effectiveness of new treatments. Other governments and insurers closely watch the agency's actions, particularly in Europe.

Morgan Stanley said it was possible the NICE recommendation could lead to a 13-15 percent European price cut, reducing the size of the market by $102 million, or 5 percent in 2008, by $173 million in 2009 and $251 million in 2010.

(Reporting by Michael Kahn; Editing by Quentin Bryar)

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