UK regulators are granting some lung cancer patients access to Bristol Myers Squibb’s immunotherapy Opdivo ahead of a European licensing decision.

Opdivo (nivolumab) has been added to the country’s Early Access to Medicines Scheme, giving patients with non-squamous forms of non-small lung cancer, whose tumours express programmed death ligand-1 (PD-L1), the opportunity for treatment with the drug before it is officially approved.

The drug’s innovative mode of action works by harnessing the ability of the immune system to find and fight cancer. 

“Thanks to our Early Access to Medicines Scheme, NHS patients with this devastating form of lung cancer will be amongst the first in Europe to have access to this life_enhancing medicine,” noted Life Sciences Minister, George Freeman MP. 

“This scheme, launched in 2014, is making a real difference in speeding up access to innovative medicines, but we want to go further, which is why the independent Accelerated Access Review will recommend how we can get new treatments to patients even faster.”

Last year, Opdivo picked up European approval for the treatment of adult patients with locally advanced or metastatic squamous NSCLC following chemotherapy, after clinical trials showed that 42% of patients taking the drug were still alive at one year versus 24% of those treated with docetaxel.

However, cost regulators have barred patients with squamous NSCLC from access to Opdivo, on grounds that it is too expensive.