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Bloodwise welcomes NICE decision to make blood cancer drug available

The Bloodwise logo. Bloodwise appears in black text against a white background
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25 Nov 2016

Bloodwise welcomes NICE decision to make ‘game changing’ cancer drug available for patients with the most common form of leukaemia.

Bloodwise welcomes today’s announcement by NICE that the targeted blood cancer drug ‘ibrutinib’ will be made routinely available for chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) patients on the NHS in England. 

Ibrutinib has been hailed as a step change in treatment by doctors, transforming the outlook of patients for whom other treatments have been unsuccessful. It works by disabling an enzyme in leukaemia cells vital to their growth and survival, called ‘Bruton’s tyrosine kinase’.  Clinical trial results for the drug have been hugely promising and many CLL patients in England have already benefited from the drug since it was added to the Cancer Drugs Fund in 2015.

CLL, a typically slowly developing form of blood cancer, is diagnosed in over 4,000 people each year in the UK and is the most common form of leukaemia in the Western World.  The NICE decision makes ibrutinib available to CLL patients who relapse after (or do not respond to) initial treatment and patients with a specific subset of CLL known as CLL with 17p deletion

Diana Jupp, Acting CEO at blood cancer charity Bloodwise said: “Ibrutinib has been recognised as one of the most promising breakthroughs in recent years for CLL, and is likely to fundamentally change the way that the disease is treated. Today’s decision is fantastic news for CLL patients in England, ensuring long term access to this life-saving drug.  It has the potential to transform the quality of life for many current and future patients. The decision is a great example of all parties working together to put the needs of patients first.” 

“However, whilst this is good news, we are anxiously waiting on whether NICE will make ibrutinib available for patients with two other types of blood cancer - mantle cell lymphoma (MCL) and Waldenström’s Macroglobulinemia. We are imploring NICE and NHS England to do the right thing by these two other patient groups as well. For MCL in particular, denying access to ibrutinib will condemn patients to debilitating side effects and many patients will not live as long.”

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