Scotland gives go-ahead for three new cancer drugs

Scotland has voted to approve three new cancer drugs, in a major boost to those suffering from the disease north of the border.
Scotland has voted to approve three new cancer drugs, in a major boost to those suffering from the disease north of the border.
Peter Byrne
Charlie Bayliss

By Charlie Bayliss

Published: 08/11/2021

- 16:14

Updated: 14/02/2023

- 11:23

Two lung cancer drugs and another drug to treat Hodkin lymphoma were approved for use by the Scottish Medicines Consortium

Three new cancer drugs have been given the go-ahead for routine use in Scotland, the Scottish Medicines Consortium has announced.

Lung cancer drugs Osimertinib (Tagrisso) and Atezolizumab (Tecentriq) were cleared for use in people with non-small cell lung cancer on Monday, and Pembrolizumab (Keytruda) was also approved for those with Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer of the white blood cells.

Scott Muir, the vice-chairman of the consortium, said he was pleased to be able to accept their use for the NHS in Scotland.

“For patients who have had surgery for non-small cell lung cancer, Osimertinib offers the potential to live disease-free for a longer period of time,” he said.

“For those patients living with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer, there is often a high disease burden. Atezolizumab is an additional treatment option.”

“Pembrolizumab will provide another treatment for patients living with Hodgkin lymphoma that is generally well tolerated.”

David Ferguson, public affairs manager for Cancer Research UK in Scotland, said the acceptance of the two lung cancer drugs “will be warmly welcomed by patients and their families”.

He said: “Both drugs improve overall survival for non-small cell lung cancer. They showed significant potential in clinical trials as the first treatment option for some aggressive forms of lung cancer. Targeted treatments like these drugs are the way forward to helping more people survive cancer,” he said.

“Today’s approvals bring personalised medicine for lung cancer one step closer and gives patients new treatment options which will help them spend more time with loved ones.”

The consortium publishes advice on accepting drugs for use in the health service, and is a committee made up of clinicians, pharmacists, NHS board representatives, the pharmaceutical industry and the public.

Scotland has approved three new drugs to treat cancer patients.
Scotland has approved three new drugs to treat cancer patients.
Peter Byrne

The committee makes its decisions based on a range of evidence, and also looks at the value for money each drug provides.

Osimertinib (Tagrisso) was accepted for use in patients who have had surgery for non-small cell lung cancer. The committee said it approved the drug following consideration through its patient and clinician engagement process, which is used to evaluate medicines used to treat end of life and very rare conditions.

The process highlighted the high risk of disease recurrence following surgery and that this targeted treatment option is expected to allow patients a longer period living disease free.

Osimertinib is an oral medicine that is likely to be better tolerated than other treatment options, the committee said.

Atezolizumab (Tecentriq) was accepted by the committee for the treatment of metastatic non-small cell lung cancer.

The majority of patients are diagnosed at an advanced stage of the disease, which is associated with extremely poor survival, no chance of a cure and limited treatment options, the committee said.

Patients often experience multiple distressing symptoms. Atezolizumab is an additional first line therapy option which is easier to tolerate, administer and requires less time spent in hospital than chemotherapy.

Pembrolizumab (Keytruda) was accepted for the treatment of relapsed or refractory Hodgkin lymphoma in patients aged three or older, when other treatment options have failed.

Hodgkin lymphoma is a rare condition which can impact on a patient’s ability to work or take part in family or social activities.

The committee said current treatments can be very intensive, with serious side effects, and the new drug may increase the time until disease progresses and offers a more convenient treatment option that is likely to reduce the treatment burden on patients and their families.

But the committee said it was unable to accept a fourth drug, Selpercatinib (Retsevmo), to treat advanced non-small cell lung cancer in adults.

Mr Muir said: “We were unable to accept Selpercatinib as the evidence provided by the company was not strong enough to satisfy the committee of its cost effectiveness.”

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