Charities welcome U-turn on myeloma drug

Myeloma UK, Cancerbackup and Leukaemia CARE have welcomed the decision by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence to revise its guidance and recommend that the drug Velcade should be available on the NHS.

The three charities appealed jointly against NICE’s original decision last year that Velcade should not be available on the NHS.

The U-turn by NICE hinges on an unprecedented deal with the manufacturers of Velcade, Janssen-Cilag, who have offered to pay for unsuccessful courses of treatment. A course of the drug can cost up to £18,000.

Myeloma, also called multiple myeloma, is an incurable form of bone marrow cancer. Velcade extends life by an average of two to three years, but has given some sufferers an extra seven years.

Under the proposed scheme, every myeloma patient would be entitled to three months' treatment with the drug and their reaction would be monitored.

If they reacted well, as 60 to 70 per cent of patients do, they would be able to continue with the treatment. If there was no response, the company would refund the cost to the NHS.

A spokeswoman for Myeloma UK said the charity coalition was not involved in the deal. It had argued for the drug to be freely available without the concession by the manufacturers because it felt Velcade was cost-effective.

Eric Low, chief executive of Myeloma UK, told the BBC: “We welcome the fact that these conversations have resulted in a creative way to ensure that this important cancer drug can be made available to patients.”

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