Blood cancer drug approved for use on Scottish NHS

A new drug for an aggressive form of blood cancer has been approved for use by the Scottish Medicines Consortium.
A new drug for an aggressive form of blood cancer has been approved for use by the Scottish Medicines Consortium.
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Scottish patients with a rare form of blood cancer have been granted access to a daily pill which could prolong their lives and reduce treatment side effects.

The Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) approved the drug dasatinib for use on the NHS for adult patients with chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML), an aggressive form of blood cancer which affects around 460 Scots.

Patients north of the border will be the first in the UK to access the daily medication, which will allow many to live a more normal life as it offers a quicker response than existing treatments.

The regulatory body also approved treatments for advanced skin cancer and blood clots.

Glasgow University Professor Mhairi Copland, chair of the National Cancer Research Institite CML working group, said: “The recommendation from the SMC is a significant milestone for Scottish patients fighting this blood cancer.

“If treated effectively, many people with this disease will have a normal life expectancy and it is therefore vital to have access to medicines that make this possible.

“Granting access to dasatinib opens a new door for patients; one that offers the chance for patients to live a normal life not dictated by their cancer or by their treatment.”

CML develops when the body produces too many of a certain type of white blood cell that do not properly develop.

Over time, these cancerous cells accumulate in the bone marrow, preventing the production of healthy blood cells.

If the condition is diagnosed early, more than 70 per cent of people can live at least five years after diagnosis.

Zack Pemberton-Whitely, head of campaigns and advocacy at Leukaemia CARE charity, said: “A diagnosis of chronic myeloid leukaemia, a rare form of blood cancer, can have a huge impact on the lives of patients and families that are affected.

“Today’s decision means that patients will now have access to an effective and convenient treatment with potential to improve their daily lives.”

The SMC also gave the green light to trametinib for the treatment for advanced melanoma patients with a specific genetic mutation.

A drug called idarucizumab was also accepted to neutralise the effects of another medicine, dabigatran, which is used to treat and prevent blood clots.

It can reverse the anticlotting effects of dabigatran rapidly in patients who need emergency surgery or experience life-threatening bleeding.

The SMC refused to approve a treatment for multiple myeloma and another drug for chronic kidney disease, as they were both too costly for use on the NHS.

Professor Jonathan Fox, chairman of the SMC Committee, said: “I am pleased we have been able to accept these new medicines for routine use. We know from the evidence given at PACE that trametinib will be welcomed by patient groups, particularly as it can help improve quality of life.

“Idarucizumab, as the first medicine to reverse the effects of the blood clotting medicine dabigatran, will be a help in emergency situations.

“For CML patients, the availability of dasatinib as both a first and second line oral treatment will offer patients and clinicians a wider range of treatment options.”