The UK’s National Institute for Clinical Excellence has delivered a blow to firms who market erythropoietin by saying that the drug should not be given to cancer patients suffering from anaemia.

NICE, which looks at the cost-effectiveness of drugs used in the NHS, issued a provisional recommendation saying that “erythropoietin is not recommended for the treatment of anaemia induced by cancer treatment except in the context of research studies.” Its technology appraisal committee noted that EPO drugs cost around £5,000 per course of treatment and that there was a need to make more effective use of the NHS’ resources.

NICE’s recommendation is expected to affect a number of major drugmakers which have blockbuster EPO products, notably Johnson & Johnson with Procrit (epoetin alfa), Amgen’s Aranesp (darbepoetin alfa) and its predecessor Epogen (epoetin alfa), as well as Roche, which sells Epogin (epoeitin beta).