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NICE recommends multiple myeloma drugs

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has issued draft guidance recommending bortezomib and thalidomide for multiple myeloma

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has issued draft guidance recommending bortezomib and thalidomide for multiple myeloma (MM) – a cancer that affects plasma cells, a type of white blood cell, in bone marrow.

Thalidomide, sold under the brand name Thalidomide by Celgene, is recommended for the first-line treatment of MM in patients for whom high-dose chemotherapy with stem cell transplantation is not an option. The drug would be used in combination with an alkylating agent and a corticosteroid.

Bortezomib, marketed as Velcade by Janssen-Cilag in the UK, is similarly recommended in combination with an alkylating agent and a corticosteroid if it is inadvisable for a patient to use thalidomide.

Both treatments were considered to be equally effective by the NICE Appraisal Committee, though thalidomide was seen as a more cost-effective option.

Dr Carole Longson, director of the Health Technology Evaluation Centre at NICE said: "The evidence clearly showed that both thalidomide and bortezomib regimens are more effective at delaying disease progression and improving patients' life expectancy than the current treatment of an alkylating agent and corticosteroid alone."

MM is the second most common haematological cancer in the UK, with around 3,600 diagnoses a year in England and Wales. There are thought to be currently between 10,000 and 15,000 people living with the disease in the UK.

Most cases of the disease are diagnosed in elderly patients, with many unable to withstand intensive treatment, such as high-dose chemotherapy with stem cell transplantation, because of their age or other health problems.

Final guidance for both treatments is expected to be published in September 2010.

26th August 2010

From: Healthcare

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