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UK cost agency turns down Bristol drug for head and neck cancer

LONDON, April 11 (Reuters) - Britain's healthcare cost-effectiveness watchdog NICE said on Tuesday that Bristol-Myers Squibb's immunotherapy drug Opdivo was not worth using on the state health service for treating head and neck cancer due to its high price.

The draft decision from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is the latest example of an expensive new cancer drug being spurned by the watchdog over cost issues.

Paul Workman, Chief Executive of the Institute of Cancer Research, said the decision would deny patients "a genuine breakthrough treatment" and he urged NICE and Bristol to work together to reach an agreement on price. Opdivo is also approved to treat a number of other cancers.

Britain has led the way in measuring drug cost-effectiveness in a rational and dispassionate way, following the establishment of NICE nearly two decades ago, but the system is now facing increasing financial strains. (Reporting by Ben Hirschler, editing by Louise Heavens)