Janssen-Cilag is to appeal the UK decision to restrictaccess to its multiple myeloma drug Velcade (bortezomib). 

Earlier this week, the National Institute for Health andClinical Excellence published draft guidance recommending Velcade incombination with an alkylating agent and a corticosteroid as a treatment optionbut only if the patient is unable to tolerate or has contraindications tothalidomide, which was recommended as the first-line treatment of multiple myelomain certain patients. 

A statement from NICE said: “The independent AppraisalCommittee heard from clinical specialists that, although the choice oftreatment would differ for each individual, a thalidomide regimen would beconsidered more appropriate in most cases. The evidence suggests that in termsof clinical effectiveness the two regimens were equivalent, but thalidomideregimens were more cost effective than the bortezomib regimen.” 

Peter Barnes, medical director at Janssen-Cilag UK said alarge proportion of myeloma patients would be denied the chance of treatmentwith the drug if the recommendation was to become guidance. 

“We believe we have demonstrated that bortezomib is aclinically and cost-effective treatment option for this group of newlydiagnosed myeloma patients. For this reason we intent to appeal the draftrecommendation which would mean that cancer patients in England and Wales wouldbe disadvantaged compared t those in much of Europe, where bortezomib has beenwidely available in this setting for a number of years.” 

The average cost of bortezomib per treatment cycle is£3,000. This is compared with the average cost of thalidomide per treatmentcycle is £2,100. 

Final guidance is expected to be published in September.