New drug to bring Scots blood cancer patients hope

TWO new drugs which could extend the lives of those with rare forms of blood cancer are among a string of new medicines approved for use in Scotland.

Dr Angus Broom is a consultant haematologist at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh. Picture: Ian Rutherford

The Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) published advice yesterday accepting idelalisib – marketed as Zydelig – for the treatment of follicular lymphoma (FL).

The condition is the largest sub group of non-Hodgkins lymphoma, causing painful swelling in the lymph nodes around the neck, groin and armpits.

Sign up to our public interest bulletins - get the latest news on the Coronavirus

Sign up to our public interest bulletins - get the latest news on the Coronavirus

The pill will offer a new hope to sufferers, as it is the first in a wave of new medicines for patients who have not responded to other courses of treatment.

Dr Angus Broom, consultant haematologist at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh, said: “It is welcome news that idelalisib is now available for patients in Scotland, as improving quality of life is one of the main goals in the treatment of FL.

“Access to this treatment offers patients with FL a new option, for those patients unsuitable for chemotherapy.”

Ofatumumab, known as Azerra, was also accepted for the treatment of chronic lymphocytic leukaemia – a cancer of the white blood cells.

The drug will be used on patients who are less able to tolerate more aggressive treatments.

Tony Gavin, chief executive of the charity Leukaemia Care, welcomed the news and said it would provide hope for patients who have reacted badly to other treatments.

He added: “We are also greatly encouraged by the SMC’s new approach to reviewing drugs for rare diseases, and are pleased to have been consulted as part of this new ‘patient and clinical engagement’ process, to be able to provide our, and our patients, perspectives on the acknowledged real-life benefits this novel agent can bring to patients and their families.”

The SMC also approved a landmark treatment for ulcerative colitis, a condition causing inflammation and ulcers in the lining of the gut, which affects 12,400 people in Scotland.

Vedolizumab – marketed as Entyvio – selectively targets the immune system in the gut, so the rest of the body’s immune system remains unaffected.

Many current treatments for ulcerative colitis come with concerns over serious infections and increased risk of cancer because they suppress the body’s entire immune system.

A new injection for people suffering from vision loss through diabetes was also approved yesterday.

The drug dexamethasone will treat diabetic macular oedema, which causes a swelling of the light-sensitive layer at the back of the eye caused by diabetes, leading to impaired central vision. The SMC also approved drugs to treat autoimmune hepatitis and type 2 diabetes.

Prof Jonathan Fox, chairman of the SMC, said: “SMC is pleased to be able to accept these new medicines which will benefit patients with a variety of conditions.”