Scottish cost regulators have endorsed the use of five new medicines by NHS Scotland, offering patients new options for lung cancer, depression, ankylosing spondylitis and epilepsy.
The Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) accepted the use of two new lung cancer drugs after they were considered through its Patient and Clinician Engagement (PACE) process, which targets medicines that treat end of life and very rare conditions.
First up, Pfizer's Xalkori can now be for first-line treatment of adults with anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK)-positive advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). According to the regulator, average survival for patients with this type of cancer is less than a year, and the drug can delay disease progression for an average of four months, giving patients valuable extra time with a better quality of life in the context of the limited overall survival time.
The SMC also highlighted the fact that, as the medicine is taken orally, it also cuts down the number of required hospital visits versus the current treatment option of chemotherapy, and that it may have fewer side effects.
Bristol-Myers Squibb's Opdivo (nivolumab) was accepted for the treatment of a different form of lung cancer known as squamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), a particularly aggressive sub-type of the disease with few treatment options.
Opdivo, the first immunotherapy to be licensed for lung cancer, increases the ability of the immune system to kill cancer cells, and can offer patients an extra three to four months survival time and improved quality of life, which is extremely valuable in the context of a limited overall survival time of around six months, the cost watchdog noted.
Elsewhere, Lundbeck's Brintellix (vortioxetine) has been waved through as a new treatment for major depression, offering a further treatment option for patients unresponsive to other antidepressants. The could also be associated with fewer side effects in some patients, the SMC said.
Current therapies for major depression have only a 50 percent success rate due to the diversity of the condition and differing patient profiles, so new treatment options are urgently needed. Brintellix has a multimodal action that targets both inhibition of serotonin reuptake and modulation of serotonin receptor activity.
Novartis' Cosentyx (secukinumab) can now be routinely prescribed on the NHS in Scotland as a treatment for ankylosing spondylitis, a progressive, irreversible arthritic disease causing inflammation and pain in the joints of the spine. According to the SMC, compared with placebo, Cosentyx significantly improved symptoms in adults with active disease inadequately controlled with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
Also accepted was UCB Pharma's Briviact (brivaracetam) for a difficult to control type of epilepsy (partial-onset seizures), offering an additional treatment option, particularly for those who have had side effects with currently available treatments.