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Lowered price wins NICE approval for Janssen leukaemia treatment

Published on 25/11/16 at 09:50am

After being knocked back in the beginning of June this year, NICE has announced that Janssen’s Imbruvica (ibrutinib) will now be routinely available on the NHS for the treatment of chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL).

Ibrutinib is a daily oral treatment that blocks the ability of cancerous cells to multiply. The drug was previously blocked due to concerns over its cost-effectiveness, costing just shy £56,000 per patient per year, but Janssen has now agreed to provide it at a discount via a patient access scheme, meaning CLL sufferers who have previously received treatment or who have 17p deletion or TP53 mutation will now be able to access the drug.  

Janssen was vocal over the drug's rejection for use on the NHS earlier this year, while NICE requested that Janssen instead put forward a case for the drug to be funded through the newly-reformed Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF). The company instead chose to make the product financially viable for NICE via the aforementioned price cut.

The number of patients estimated to benefit from the new availability of ibrutinib is projected to be around 600 across England and Wales. The Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) approved the drug for the same indication in August this year.

NICE has also previously turned down the drug as a treatment for Waldenstrom's macroglobulinaemia (WM), a rare variety of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. However, the drug was approved for the same indication for use in Europe by the European Commission in July.

NICE’s director of the centre for health technology evaluation Carole Longson reinforced the positive impact the decision promises to have:

“Patients with this type of leukaemia are difficult to treat; they have very limited treatment options available and some treatments can cause severe side effects. The committee found ibrutinib to be an innovative and effective drug for people who have had treatment before, or who have specific genetic changes. A further discount on price offered by the company meant that the committee could recommend ibrutinib as clinically effective and value for money for use in the NHS.

“Our decision means that many patients can feel reassured that they can now get routine access to ibrutinib.”

Matt Fellows

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