Patients in England and Wales with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia are a step closer to getting access to Roche’s Gazyvaro (obinutuzumab) on the National Health Service, after cost regulators recommended the drug for routine use. 

Gazyvaro is the first ‘type II’ anti-CD20 monoclonal antibody licensed for the treatment of CLL and is designed to attack blood cancers more aggressively than ‘type I’ treatments such as MabThera (rituximab).

According to the Swiss drugmaker, the drug has a double-pronged mode of attack being able to kill cancer cells directly as well as alert the body’s immune system to ‘enemy’ cancer cells, thereby boosting the immune response. 

In clinical trials a regimen of Gazyvaro/chemotherapy reduced the risk of death by 53% and meant that patients remained in remission more than 18 months longer than those receiving chemotherapy alone.

In a Final Appraisal Determination NICE is recommending the drug’s use in combination with chlorambucil for previously-untreated adult patients with CLL and co-existing medical conditions who are unsuitable for full-dose fludarabine-based therapy, and only if bendamustine-based therapy is also not suitable.

The Scottish Medicines Consortium agreed NHS funding for the drug in December 2014.