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Celgene’s blood cancer pill too expensive for NHS

Published on 13/02/15 at 11:14am
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NICE has decided not to recommend Celgene’s Imnovid for treating patients with multiple myeloma – a cancer that affects white blood cells found in bone marrow.

Imnovid (pomalidomide) in combination with steroid drug dexamethasone is a therapy used to treat relapsed and refractory multiple myeloma in adults who have had at least two prior treatments.

The UK body says that it cannot pass through the blood cancer pill as the analyses from Celgene “showed that the drug does not offer enough benefit to justify its high price”.

The medication was launched in the UK two years ago following results from the Phase III MM-003 study, which demonstrated significant advantages in progression-free survival and overall survival when compared to high dose dexamethasone alone.

Dr Adrian Kilcoyne, who is the medical director at Celgene UK & Ireland now comments: “We are clearly disappointed by NICE’s decision not to recommend pomalidomide as we provided the health technology body with the best evidence available.

“We remain committed to ensuring that patients in England and Wales are ultimately able to gain access to the drug on the NHS. We are in discussions with NICE and the Department of Health and are hopeful that we can find an appropriate solution that enables patients to continue to be able to access pomalidomide in the long term.”

NICE has already recommended a number of treatment options for multiple myeloma including Celgene’s Thalomid (thalidomide) – which was last year accused of downplaying its safety risks, plus Velcade (bortezomib) by Johnson & Johnson – which saw its sales fall by $42 million in Q4 results.

Multiple myeloma is the second most common blood cancer and affects an estimated 9,900 people in the UK and Ireland.

Kilcoyne adds that: “It is essential that effective treatments, such as pomalidomide, are made available so that clinicians can help patients, who have failed all other options, maintain ongoing control of their disease.”

In the interim, patients in England are able to access Celgene’s blood cancer pill via the Cancer Drugs Fund, it is not however available to residents living in Wales. The draft guidance is now with consultees, who have the opportunity to appeal against it.

Tom Robinson

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