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UK cost agency backs melanoma drugs after price cuts

LONDON (Reuters) - Two new drugs for skin cancer have been recommended for use on Britain's state-run health service after the rival manufacturers - Roche and Bristol-Myers Squibb - agreed to cut their prices.

The move underscores the growing pressure on drug companies to cut deals with austerity-hit European governments in order to prove their expensive new medicines offer value for money.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) said on Friday it had issued final draft guidance recommending both Roche's Zelboraf and Bristol's Yervoy after the companies offered undisclosed discounts.

NICE, which determines if products should be used by the National Health Service (NHS), had initially rejected both medicines, despite acknowledging that they represented a breakthrough in treating melanoma.

The list price for Zelboraf, which is only suitable for patients with a particular genetic profile, is 52,500 pounds ($84,600) for an average treatment span of seven months.

The price of a four-dose course of Yervoy, which is recommended only for people who have received prior chemotherapy, is 75,000 pounds.

($1 = 0.6207 British pounds)

(Reporting by Ben Hirschler; Editing by Mark Potter)