NHS England has approved funding for a new sub-cutaneous formulation of Roche’s cancer drug MabThera (rituximab) which offers patients with follicular lymphoma a more convenient treatment option while potentially saving the National Health Service a lot of cash.

The Swiss drug giant said its subcutaneous injection can be delivered in just five minutes, compared to the current two and a half hours it takes for an intravenous infusion, making more efficient use of resources and improving the patient experience.

Around 2,400 patients with follicular lymphoma, a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, are expected to be eligible for maintenance treatment with MabThera SC, each gaining up to 43 hours over the course of their treatment. “This will be liberating news for thousands of patients who will have more valuable time to spend with their family and friends,” noted Andrew Davies, Consultant in Medical Oncology at University Hospital Southampton.

On the economic side, the NHS could stand to save more than £2.5 million every year with the national use of MabThera SC, from savings in national tariff and drug costs, through time saved by preparing and administrating the treatment, and reduced drug wastage compared to IV, Roche said.

Easing the burden

The drugmaker also pointed out that this much faster means of delivering the drug could also help ease some of the pressure on already over-stretched chemotherapy units, which are poised to face a huge increase in demand as the number of new cancer cases in the UK is forecast to jump 45% between 2007 and 2030.

MabThera SC’s UK licence was granted on the back of data from the the SABRINA study, which showed that switching from IV to SC administration provides comparable efficacy with similar overall and complete response rates, and a similar overall safety profile. 

The original formulation of MabThera has been deemed a cost-effective use of NHS resources across various indications by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.