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NICE recommends MabThera for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma

Published on 06/12/10 at 07:06am
Roche's MabThera

NICE has given a preliminary green-light to Roche’s MabThera for use as a maintenance therapy for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

The Institute’s draft guidance recommends MabThera (rituximab) as a first-line maintenance treatment for certain patients with advanced follicular non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Professor Peter Littlejohns, clinical and public health director at NICE, said: “A maintenance treatment is used to stop a cancer from returning following initial chemotherapy. For follicular non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, no such maintenance treatment has so far been available and therefore rituximab could be a valuable treatment option for patients with this type of cancer.

“The evidence highlighted that it could keep a patient's cancer in remission after they have had chemotherapy and therefore delay the need for further chemotherapy. This should mean that patients have fewer chemotherapy-associated side effects long-term and so improve their quality of life.

“However, the evidence submitted by the manufacturer did include some uncertainties, mostly around the extent to which rituximab can extend a patient's life expectancy and the impact of this assumption on its cost-effectiveness.”

Littlejohns added that, while the committee felt that the drug is likely to be an appropriate use of NHS resources, it expected Roche to confirm this by providing further, more specific, information.

NICE said in a statement that it expects to receive this “in good time” for the data to be independently analysed ahead of a second committee meeting scheduled for February next year.

MabThera - known as Rituxan outside the EU - was approved by the FDA in February for chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL), the most common form of adult blood cancer.

It is also indicated for rheumatoid arthritis patients and received the NICE thumbs up in August as a second line treatment for the autoimmune disease.

The blockbuster cancer treatment’s primary indication is for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and last year earned Roche $5.6 billion in revenues.

MabThera works by targeting a protein called CD-20 that is found on B-cell lymphocytes. The drug kills these cells while allowing normal white blood cells to grow and replace those destroyed.

NICE's preliminary guidance is now available for public consultation until 7 January 2011 - comments can be made via the NICE website.

Ben Adams

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