Skin cancer drug Yervoy available to Scots patients

The SMC's green light should now mean patients eligible for the treatment can access Yervoy on the NHS. Picture: PA
The SMC's green light should now mean patients eligible for the treatment can access Yervoy on the NHS. Picture: PA
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SCOTTISH patients are set to benefit from the first new treatment for advanced skin cancer to be developed in over three decades.

• The Scottish Medicines Consortium has approved the use of Yervoy (ipilimumab) on the NHS for patients with advanced melanoma

• Yervoy is the first drug for the treatment of advanced skin cancer to be licensed for over 30 years

The Scottish Medicines Consortium has approved the use of Yervoy (ipilimumab) on the NHS for patients with advanced melanoma - the deadliest form of skin cancer.

It follows previous concerns that Scots were being denied access to the drug because of the lack of a special fund to pay for such treatments which has benefited patients in England.

But the SMC’s green light should now mean patients eligible for the treatment can access Yervoy on the NHS.

The SMC has also approved the drug Eylea for patients suffering a common cause of blindness which experts hope will ease pressure on NHS services.

Skin cancer drug Yervoy is the first drug for the treatment of advanced skin cancer to be licensed for over 30 years. It works by directly stimulating the body’s immune system to fight the cancer.

Dr Tim Crook, consultant medical oncologist at Dundee University, said the drugs represented “a genuine step change in the treatment of advanced melanoma”.

“For many patients in Scotland, the decision could mean more months of life and, for some, there may also be potential for longer-term disease control,” he said.

In another decision, the SMC approved the used of the drug Eylea on the NHS to treat patients with wet age-related macular degeneration (wAMD), which can lead to blindness.

It means that patients need fewer hospital visits than they would with current treatments for the condition which require monthly appointments.

With Eylea, patients get monthly doses for the first three months followed by one injection every two months. After the first 12 months, the interval may be extended based on how the patient is responding.

Dr Mike Gavin, consultant ophthalmologist at Gartnavel General Hospital in Glasgow, said: “This decision will be welcomed by ophthalmologists across Scotland as Eylea has the potential to relieve the considerable pressure currently on eye services.”

The SMC also recommended the use of Orencia (abatacept) for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) where patients have failed to respond to other drugs.