The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has recommended Revlimid (lenalidomide), a drug that helps to support the immune system to fight blood cancer.

The treatment will now be available on the NHS for patients with a form of blood cancer as a first- and second-line drug, after a new guideline recommended it in combination with dexamethasone as an option for previously untreated multiple myeloma in adults who are not eligible for a stem cell transplant and cannot take thalidomide.

The new indication will benefit approximately 2,100 patients, as the company has a commercial arrangement (via the patient access scheme) which makes lenalidomide available to the NHS with a discount.

The new drug will “not only improve the length of time people live, but it will also have fewer side effects compared with current treatments”, said Meindert Boysen, director of the Centre for Health Technology Evaluation at NICE.

He continued, ““Multiple myeloma is normally treated with a thalidomide -based therapy at first line, however, there is considerable need for new therapies for those who cannot take thalidomide. The new decision by NICE now means that those patients have an effective alternative.”

In a second piece of final draft guidance published NICE has also recommended the drug as an option for treating multiple myeloma in adults if they have had only one previous therapy, which includes bortezomib.

Under current protocol, patients are offered chemotherapy as a second treatment after bortezomib, however clinical evidence shows that Revlimid with dexamethasone substantially improves the length of time people live compared to bortezomib-based therapy.