NHS England has reached an interim treatment agreement with MSD for Keytruda for the treatment of certain advanced colorectal cancer patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Following the agreement, Keytruda (pembrolizumab) is now available in England for eligible patients with metastatic microsatellite instability-high (MSI-H) or mismatch repair deficient (dMMR) colorectal cancer.

The agreement is part of the NHS’ efforts to offer alternative cancer therapies, where they are clinically indicated, to meet patient needs and fulfil certain criteria.

This includes helping to reduce patient visits to hospital, make better use of clinical capacity and provide options which reduce the number of patients on more immunosuppressive therapies during the pandemic.

Keytruda was granted a European license in January 2021 in this indication, based on data from the KEYNOTE-177 study.

The checkpoint inhibitor significantly reduced the risk of disease progression or death by 40% compared with chemotherapy in previously untreated patients with metastatic MSI-H/dMMR colorectal cancer.

“With the unprecedented pressure the NHS is facing due to the COVID pandemic, we want to do all we can to support the NHS and ensure cancer patients and healthcare professionals have the very best treatments and care available to them,” said David Peacock, managing director, MSD UK and Ireland.

“Everyone’s safety is paramount. With that in mind MSD is pleased to be able to contribute by working with NHS England to extend this treatment option for eligible patients with metastatic bowel cancer,” he added.

Keytruda is also currently undergoing a National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) technology appraisal for routine use in the NHS for this indication.