Scottish cost regulators have approved funding for National Health Service use of five new medicines this month, including treatments for thyroid cancer, Crohn’s disease and a novel antibiotic for pneumonia.

Bayer’s Nexavar (sorafenib) has been accepted for use to treat an extremely rare type of cancer called differentiated thyroid carcinoma (DTC), which can cause difficulties with breathing and swallowing.

Patient groups and clinicians highlighted that, as no alternative options are currently available, the drug can be life changing and possibly even life saving as it offers the potential to relieve the most frightening symptoms of the condition, improve pain management and enhance both the quality and quantity of life.

The Scottish Medicines Consortium also endorsed the use of Bayer’s first-in-class drug Adempas (riociguat) for pulmonary arterial hypertension, a disease where narrowing of the blood vessels leads to increased pressure in the main artery to the lungs, making physical activity of any kind difficult.  

There are limited treatment options for this condition and surgical intervention is not always possible or successful, the regulator noted, adding that the drug offers patients another treatment option which may help to improve their quality of life.

Takeda’s Entyvio (vedolizumab) also made the cut as an option for moderate to severe Crohn’s disease, a condition that causes inflammation of the gut wall. The drug has a different mode of action to other therapies in that it suppresses only the gut immune system, and the may potentially may have fewer side effects than TNF alpha inhibitors.

Also accepted were Leo Pharmaceuticals’ Innohep (tinzaparin), to treat venous thrombo-embolism, which includes blood clots in the legs and the lungs; and Basilea’s new antibiotic Zevtera (ceftobiprole), for the treatment of hospital-acquired pneumonia when other appropriate antibiotics cannot be tolerated.

On the downside, AstraZeneca’s Lynparza (olaparib) was rejected as a treatment for advanced ovarian cancer because the Committee felt there were a number of uncertainties around the overall survival benefits of olaparib, and that the health benefits may not justify the cost.

The SMC said it was also unable to recommend Pierre Fabre’s Javlor (vinflunine) for the treatment of advanced or metastatic transitional cell carcinoma of the urothelial tract. While recognising that there have been no new treatments for bladder cancer in 30 years and no other treatments of proven benefit for the condition, the Committee felt there were weaknesses around the overall costs in relation to health benefits.

The cost watchdog also blocked use of Bayer’s bloodthinner Xarelto (rivaroxaban) for preventing blood clots in patients with acute coronary syndrome, a condition caused by a shortage of blood supply to the heart, after concluding that it did not offer value for money compared with other therapies on the market.