Myeloma cancer drug gets the green light from the EU

The European Union has given the green light to a drug which doubles the survival rates for people with myeloma.

The drug Revlimid (lenalidomide) comes in the form of a pill and has been given approval by the European Medicines Agency (EMEA) for use in combination with a standard therapy called dexamethasone in patients who have received at least one prior treatment.

Revlimid is manufactured by Celgene International Sarl, who must now submit evidence to the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) to get it approved for use on the National Health Service (NHS) in England and Wales.

Myeloma, a cancer of the bone marrow has no cure and as many as 4,000 people are diagnosed with it each year in the UK; there are thought to be 20,000 currently suffering from it. Almost half die within the first year and 80 per cent within five years.

Trials of Revlimid offered double the survival rate for patients when used together with the standard therapy dexamethasone and on average, patients on the drug lived almost a year longer.

Although Revlimid could give multiple myeloma sufferers an extra year of life they may be unable to get hold of the drug and the cost of the £4,200-a-month treatment could mean NHS patients will be denied the treatment on the grounds of it being so expensive.

Another drug, Velcade, which is given by injection, is still being appraised by NICE and also unfortunately appears to be at this stage too expensive given how long it prolongs life.

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