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MSD's Keytruda approved for first-line lung cancer use on NHS Scotland

Published on 10/09/19 at 11:51am

MSD and lung cancer patients will be celebrating the news that the pharma giant’s immunotherapy Keytruda (pembrolizumab) has been accepted by the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC), in combination with carboplatin and paclitaxel chemotherapy, for the first-line treatment of metastatic squamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

The decision means that Keytruda becomes the first drug approved in Scotland in the first-line treatment of this indication; patients will be able to access the drug on the NHS, but only those whose tumours express programmed death ligand 1 (PD-L1) with a tumour proportion score (TPS) that is less than 50% or which cannot be evaluated. Additionally, treatment with the therapy will be affected by a two-year stopping rule.

“Due to the difficult-to-treat nature of squamous NSCLC, most Scottish patients have, to date, only had access to immunotherapy after chemotherapy,” said Dr Brian Clark, Consultant Clinical Oncologist at the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre. “Treatment with pembrolizumab combined with chemotherapy is showing significant improvements in overall survival and we have found that response rates are significantly higher at 58% with a chemotherapy/immunotherapy combination, compared to 35% for chemotherapy alone. This approval is a hugely positive result for this group of Scottish lung cancer patients, for which this first line treatment option has not been available until now.”

Paula Chadwick, CEO at the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, also remarked: “We are delighted that Scottish patients with squamous NSCLC will now be able to receive pembrolizumab. From speaking to patients every day, we know the positive impact the new wave of immuno-oncology and targeted therapies are having on their lives. Not only are these treatments potentially giving them more time but also improving the quality of this time with their loved ones.”

This ruling is of particular importance in Scotland where lung cancer is the most common cause of death in both men and women, with 5,331 diagnoses in 2017 alone, accounting for 25.3% of cancer deaths that year.

Matt Fellows

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