NICE recommends drug for most common form of leukaemia
NICE has today recommended the use of rituximab (MabThera) as a treatment for patients who suffer from relapsed or refractory chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, the most common form of the cancer in the UK.
Under the final draft guidance, rituximab is recommended, in combination with fludarabine and cyclophosphamide, for the treatment of this disease except when the condition has not previously responded to fludarabine or has relapsed within 6 months of treatment, or has previously been treated with rituximab.
“Treatment for chronic lymphocytic leukaemia can differ from patient to patient depending on factors such as whether a patient has any genetic abnormalities or received any previous treatment, ” according to Professor Peter Littlejohns, Clinical and Public Health Director at NICE.
“Rituximab, in combination with fludarabine and cyclophosphamide, will offer another treatment option for those patients with relapsed or refractory disease who may benefit most from the drug.”
The decision has been welcomed by cancer charities. Hilary Tovey, policy manager at Cancer Research UK, said: “Rituximab has already had a big impact on the chances of survival for patients with lymphoma.
“NICE's decision to recommend this drug is further good news for patients with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia. Our scientists were involved in the development of rituximab and this is an excellent example of how quality scientific research continues to help find new ways to treat cancer.”
Ken Campbell, clinical information officer at Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research, added: “Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research welcome the announcement that NICE has recommended that Rituximab used with fludarabine and cyclophosphamide should be available for treatment of patients with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia.
“Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia is the commonest form of leukaemia in the Western world; fortunately many patients do not need treatment initially and some will never need treatment. It is important that, when treatment is necessary, as many options as possible are available.
“The new approval will extend the options available to patients for whom initial treatment has failed or who had an initial response but their illness has become resistant. Rituximab used with fludarabine and cyclophosphamide was known to be clinically effective for this group; NICE have now confirmed that it is also cost-effective.”
The draft guidance also makes two research recommendations. When the condition has previously been treated with rituximab, the drug, in combination with fludarabine and cyclophosphamide, is recommended as a treatment for research. Rituximab, in combination with chemotherapy agents other than fludarabine and cyclophosphamide, is also only recommended in the context of research.
The research recommendations were made because of a lack of evidence of the treatment's efficacy when used in combination with other chemotherapy drugs, or when rituximab has already been used as a treatment.
4 March 2010
This page was last updated: 13 April 2010