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German drug assessment body not convinced by Bayer's cancer drug Vitrakvi

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Germany's drug assessment body said that data provided by Bayer on its precision cancer drug Vitrakvi did not provide clear enough evidence of benefits, in a setback to the drugmaker in its home market.

[FRANKFURT] Germany's drug assessment body said that data provided by Bayer on its precision cancer drug Vitrakvi did not provide clear enough evidence of benefits, in a setback to the drugmaker in its home market.

Bayer's Vitrakvi won European approval in September, the first drug in Europe to tackle tumours based on a rare genetic mutation regardless of where in the body the disease started.

Bayer has said it expected annual peak sales of more than 750 million euros (S$1.12 billion) from the drug. It needs a boost as many analysts regard the group's drug development pipeline as too thin to make up for an expected decline in revenues from its two bestsellers from about 2024.

IQWiG - an independent authority that evaluates new drugs and plays an advisory role over what price German health services pay for them - in particular criticised the fact that the clinical trials lacked a comparative group that did not receive Vitrakvi.

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"In the future we need reliable comparable data for a benefit assessment of therapies across tumour types," IQWiG said on its website late on Wednesday.

A Bayer spokeswoman said the genetic profile that Vitrakvi was targeting was too rare to allow for a control group.

The genetic change in question, known as NTRK gene fusion, occurs only in about 0.5 per cent to 1 per cent of patients with solid tumours.

IQWiG has been critical for years about insufficient trial data on new drugs, rejecting some pivotal studies that had convinced the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to approve a drug.

EMA, for its part, has said it was swayed in favour of Vitrakvi by trials involving 102 patients that showed that the drug reduced the size of tumours in 67 per cent of cases, and by the speed of tumour shrinkage.

Germany is the largest European pharmaceuticals market and the fourth biggest globally. Still, it has only slightly more than 10 per cent the size of the US market, where Vitrakvi was approved in late 2018.

REUTERS