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Roche CEO slams ‘stupid’ U.K. decision to drop some cancer drugs

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(Bloomberg) — Roche Holding AG Chief Executive Officer Severin Schwan blasted a U.K. decision to stop funding some cancer drugs, including the company’s blockbuster Avastin, calling the choice “stupid” because it focuses on the price of medicines rather than potential savings to the health system.

The U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS) said Sept. 4 that the Cancer Drug Fund set up by Prime Minister David Cameron in 2011 would no longer pay for treatment with Avastin, Roche’s second-best-selling product, for cervical, breast and colorectal cancer. The ruling also affects a Roche breast cancer medicine called Kadcyla.

The same ruling affects more than 20 other cancer drugs.

“It’s completely arbitrary,” Schwan said at a briefing Tuesday with reporters in Basel, Switzerland. “This is a mess and it needs to be fixed quickly.”

The NHS declined to comment, reiterating comments made last week about its duty to “ensure we get maximum value from every penny available on behalf of patients.” The decision ignores the savings to the health system generated by effective medicines, and the benefits to the British economy of patients being able to return to work and be productive, Schwan said.

“It’s stupid from a cost point of view,” he said. “How the hell can you ignore all these benefits?”

See also: Value-Based Plan Design: Putting A Price On Health Care Quality

The decision may mean that Roche will not able to do clinical trials in the U.K. in future because it will not be able to test new drugs against Avastin, which is the current standard of care for some cancers, according to Schwan.

“There is a fundamental flaw in how the U.K. operates when it comes to pricing for medicines,” he said. “If everybody would do what the U.K. does, a medicine would never launch in the whole world.”