AbbVie’s Venclyxto is now available on the National Health Service in England via the Cancer Drugs Fund for patients with difficult to treat forms of chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL), on the recommendation of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.

The cost regulator has decided the drug’s use should be funded to treat adults with CLL in England in the absence of 17p deletion or TP53 mutation who have failed both chemo‑immunotherapy and a B-cell receptor (BCR) inhibitor, while longer-term data on its impact on survival is collected.

Venclyxto (venetoclax) has also been recommended by the regulator for the treatment of adult CLL patients in the presence of 17p deletion or TP53 mutation who are either unsuitable for or have failed a BCR inhibitor.

The majority of CLL patients who require treatment will eventually experience disease recurrence, with one in two failing current treatments facing life expectancy of just three months, highlighting a huge level of unmet need.

Venclyxto is a first-in-class, oral, once-daily medicine that selectively inhibits the function of the BCL-2 protein, restoring the body’s ability to trigger cancer cell self-destruction.

In a Phase II study involving patients with relapsed and/or refractory CLL with a 17p deletion the overall response rate was 77.2 percent (122/158), while 86.7 percent of patients were estimated to be alive following 12 months of treatment.

“The immediate inclusion of venetoclax in the Cancer Drugs Fund is a positive step forward for patients with CLL in England” commented David Innes, Chair o’f the CLL Support Association.

“Access to new treatment options is vital for patients with challenging forms of CLL, who have a short life expectancy after exhausting current treatment options.

The drug was backed for routine use on the NHS in Scotland back in August.