A UK health watchdog has recommended against the use of Bristol-Myers Squibb‘s Yervoy (ipilimumab) for the treatment of advanced malignant melanoma.

Commenting on the decision, which has angered patient group Factor 50, National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence chief executive Sir Andrew Dillon said that the drug is not cost effective for use in the taxpayer-funded NHS.

"We need to be sure that new treatments provide sufficient benefits to patients to justify the significant cost the NHS is being asked to pay," he explained.

Dillion said the data submitted by Bristol-Myers Squibb for approval did not compare Yervoy with the drugs currently used to treat people with advanced or metastatic melanoma.

Clinical specialists also told the independent appraisal committee that only around 30% of people treated with ipilimumab would have improved survival, with only 10% potentially experiencing long-term benefits.

Patient group Factor 50 reacted to the news in a statement. It said, "The decision by the NICE Appraisal Committee is extremely disappointing as it will deny many patients across England and Wales to the long-awaited arrival of a new and effective treatment option. It means that patients will continue to have limited treatment options beyond the current standard of care, a chemotherapy that was first licensed in the 1970s."

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NICE said Bristol-Myers Squibb could also consider whether it wishes to reduce the acquisition cost to the NHS of the drug by proposing a patient-access scheme.

Ipilimumab currently costs around £80,000 per patient.