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UK cost agency turns down Sanofi bowel cancer drug

LONDON (Reuters) - Sanofi's new bowel cancer drug Zaltrap is not worth using on Britain's state health service given its high price, the country's healthcare cost watchdog said on Friday.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) said the medicine was clinically effective but it could not be considered a cost-effective use of National Health Service resources - even though Sanofi offered a discount.

The draft decision, which is now open to consultation, will be a disappointment for the French drugmaker and its U.S. biotech partner Regeneron Pharmaceuticals. It is not a complete surprise, however, since NICE previously turned down a similar medicine, Avastin, made by Roche.

Zaltrap, like Avastin but through a different approach, blocks a protein called VEGF that tumors employ to create blood vessels that provide them with nutrients.

The cost of Zaltrap has also been in the spotlight in the United States, after doctors at New York's Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center decided last November not to use the $11,000-a-month drug. Sanofi, according to the hospital, responded by offering it to all health providers at a 50 percent discount to the wholesale price.

(Reporting by Ben Hirschler; editing by Patrick Graham)

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