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BMS launches Yervoy in the UK

Bristol-Myers Squibb has secured a licence for Yervoy (ipilimumab), the UK's first new treatment for metastatic melanoma since the 1970s

Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) has secured UK approval from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) for Yervoy (ipilimumab), a drug for adult patients with metastatic melanoma who have received prior therapy.

It is the first licensed drug in the UK since the introduction of the current standard of treatment (dacarbazine) in the 1970s.

In the phase III clinical trial of adult patients with metastatic melanoma who had received prior therapy, 46 per cent of patients (63 people out of 137) were still alive at one year, compared to 25 per cent (34 people out of 136) who received the comparator, a vaccine called gp1003.

Dr Paul Lorigan, senior lecturer in medical oncology at the Christie NHS Foundation Trust, one of the leading trial centres for ipilimumab in the UK, said: "The authorisation of ipilimumab represents a real advance in the treatment of patients with advanced melanoma because it is the first treatment to be licensed in the UK for 30 years that may extend patients' life expectancy. After years of no progress in the treatment of this terrible illness, we have now made a stride forward."

Ipilimumab works by stimulating the body's own immune system to fight cancer, known as immunotherapy.

BMS has submitted the drug for review by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) and a submission to the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) is planned for later this year.

22nd August 2011

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