The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has recommended Bristol Myers Squibb’s (BMS) immunotherapy Opdivo (nivolumab) for routine use on the NHS as a treatment for metastatic and recurrent head and neck cancer.

In January, NICE published draft guidance in which it turned down Opdivo for the treatment of recurrent or metastatic squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN) after platinum-based chemotherapy.

At that time, NICE said evidence collected in the clinical trial of Opdivo and through its own Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF) showed that people with SCCHN live longer when treated with BMS’ drug lived longer than with one of three possible treatments in the comparator arm.

However, the cost-effectiveness agency added that there was uncertainty around these results, as one of the comparator treatments – docetaxel – is used as a standard of treatment for these patients in the NHS.

This cast doubt on the long-term, overall survival benefit of Opdivo, said NICE. The cost-effectiveness estimates were also higher than what NICE considers an ‘acceptable’ use of NHS resources, the agency added.

However, new evidence collected from the CDF suggests that people who receive Opdivo are likely to live up to nine months longer than those with other treatments.

Still, it is unclear how well Opdivo works compared with the ‘most relevant comparator’ docetaxel, added NICE.

NICE concluded that Opdivo meets its criteria to be considered a life-extending treatment at the end of life, with the cost-effectiveness estimates now considered to be an acceptable use of NHS resources.