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Landmark CF treatment set for European approval

Published on 30/05/12 at 09:23am
kalydeco image

A European committee is recommending the approval of Vertex’s first-in-class treatment for cystic fibrosis. 

Kalydeco (ivacaftor) is a landmark in the treatment of the disease, as the drug is the first that can alter the course of the progressive and ultimately fatal genetic disorder.

Currently available therapies for patients with cystic fibrosis only address the consequences of the disease, not the underlying defect.

The Agency’s Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) reviewed Kalydeco under accelerated assessment, in just 150 days, nearly half its average time, given that it can treat an unmet medical need. 

It is now recommending the drug’s approval - the final decision rests with the European Commission, which will give its verdict within the next three months. 

But the drug is the only licensed to treat a small sub-set of CF patients - specifically those who have the G551D mutation in the Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane Regulator (CFTR) gene.

Just 4% of CF patients are believed to have this mutation, but the approval has nevertheless been hailed as a breakthrough in treating the disease, and also a milestone in drug approval.

Peter Mueller, chief scientific officer and executive VP of global R&D at Vertex, said: “Since 1998, Vertex has been committed to developing new medicines to treat the underlying cause of cystic fibrosis.

“Kalydeco represents an important achievement in this ongoing effort. We look forward to working with the European Medicines Agency to bring Kalydeco, our first new medicine in Europe, to people with CF as quickly as possible.”

Kalydeco, which comes in pill form, is taken two times a day with fat-containing food.This helps the protein made by the CFTR gene function better, which in turn helps improves lung function in patients with CF. 

The CHMP said that Kalydeco offers ‘an innovative therapeutic approach’ for patients with cystic fibrosis, as it is the first treatment that targets the underlying mechanism of the disease, by restoring the function of the mutated CFTR protein. 

The drug was approved by the FDA in January where it is priced highly - its annual cost in the US is $294,000, making it one of the most expensive drugs in the world.  

Cystic fibrosis is a rare, life-threatening genetic disorder affecting around 60,000 people in the European Union. 

It is caused by a mutation of the CFTR gene, which regulates salt and water transport in the body. The CFTR mutation allows too much salt and water into cells. 

This results in a build-up of thick, sticky mucus in the body's tubes and passageways. These blockages damage the lungs, digestive system and other organs. 

Ben Adams 

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