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MSD's Keytruda to treat melanoma in England on the Cancer Drugs Fund

Published on 19/11/18 at 10:05am

MSD’s blockbuster immunotherapy Keytruda (pembrolizumab) will now be made available to patients in England via the Cancer Drugs Fund, it has emerged. The new ruling covers the therapy for the treatment of melanoma following surgery in those whose cancer has spread to the lymph nodes.

According to the clinical data which shaped the decision, Keytruda can extend progression-free survival with almost one in four patients remaining cancer-free after 18 months of treatment, compared to around half of patients with placebo.

A trial to determine further benefits of the drug is still ongoing, including overall survival and survival without tumour metastasis, which will make an accurate cost-effectiveness analysis easier to determine in future. 

“There are currently no adjuvant immunotherapies recommended by NICE for people who have had surgery to remove their melanoma, a disease which even after surgical removal, has a high risk of recurrence,” explained Meindert Boysen, Director for NICE’s Centre for Health Technology Evaluation. “With support from the company, and NHS England, we will be able to publish final guidance almost at the same time as the license for this indication is granted. It highlights the speed at which NICE is able to evaluate important new treatment options so they can be offered to patients as quickly as possible.”

Once its marketing authorisation has been received, Keytruda is expected to be made available by early December 2018.

John Stewart, NHS England’s Director of Specialised Commissioning, added: “Thousands of cancer patients are already benefiting from earlier access to innovative treatments through the new Cancer Drugs Fund and NHS England, alongside NICE, have worked closely with MSD to reach an agreement to make pembrolizumab available as soon as possible.”

Matt Fellows

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