Celgene Corp and charity groups have responded with dismay to the news that the Scottish Medicines Consortium has rejected the company’s treatment for multiple myeloma, Revlimid.

The SMC says that Revlimid (lenalidomide), an analogue of thalidomide, is not recommend for use within NHS Scotland, claiming that “the manufacturer did not present a sufficiently robust case”. The consortium added that Celgene’s “justification of the treatment’s cost in relation to its health benefits was not sufficient to gain acceptance by SMC”.

Last June, Revlimid was granted full approval by the European Commission in combination with dexamethasone, as a treatment for patients with multiple myeloma who have received at least one prior therapy. Celgene said it was disappointed with the decision, as patients suffering from multiple myeloma, the second most commonly diagnosed blood cancer, “could gain nearly three additional years of life when treated with Revlimid compared with previous standards of care”.

The company also noted that the SMC “did not challenge the clinical justification for the use of Revlimid” and its decision is strange as Celgene believes that the cost per quality adjusted life year (QALY) “fell within the range considered acceptable by health technology assessment bodies such as the SMC”.

Other groups were more expressive in their disappointment and Gareth Morgan, president of Myeloma UK, said that the decision “will have a devastating impact on patients with multiple myeloma in Scotland as it could result in a life or death situation for many”. He added that “lenalidomide offers new hope for cancer patients as it represents a major step forward towards turning multiple myeloma into a chronic disease rather than the death sentence it has been until now”.

Eric Low, Myeloma UK’s chief executive, said that without access to novel treatments such as Revlimid early on in the disease, “Scottish myeloma patients may do less well than European neighbours at a time when cancer survival rates are rising in other countries”. He went on to say that “the cost of new treatments is not sustainable, and the pharmaceutical industry has to do more for patients by making treatments cheaper. The SMC and the company must get together and find a solution.”

Also disappointed was the Rarer Cancers Forum which asked: “Are the people in Scotland prepared to accept third-rate cancer services where patients are left to die when drugs are available to help save their lives?” The charity added that “it is time that people in Scotland stand up to this and demand a better and a fairer service”.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, the English equivalent to the SMC, is not due to make its judgement on Revlimid until spring next year.