New lung cancer drug approved for routine use in Scotland

Lung cancer Image copyright Getty Images

A drug which could help advanced lung cancer sufferers has been approved for use on the NHS in Scotland.

Experts believe around 150 patients with a rare form of the cancer could benefit from pembrolizumab every year.

It is one of three medicines given the green light for routine use by the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC).

Patients with Crohn's Disease and the aggressive blood cancer Hodgkin Lymphoma will also have access to drugs which have not previously been funded.

Pembrolizumab is used to treat advanced non-small cell lung cancer.

It can delay disease progression and may allow patients a better quality of life in the last months of their life, according to the SMC.

Survival chances

The decision to approve the drug was welcomed by Gregor McNie, of Cancer Research UK.

He said: "Scotland is the only part of the UK where lung cancer is the most common cancer. So it's great news that pembrolizumab will be made available for some patients in Scotland with this devastating disease.

"We have spent many years trying to find better treatments for non-small cell lung cancer, and the chances of survival have been among the poorest of any type of cancer.

"Pembrolizumab is the only immunotherapy drug available to treat this type of lung cancer, and this decision means it can be given as a first treatment option for some patients.

"We're pleased that SMC and the drug company worked together to make pembrolizumab routinely available to patients within NHS Scotland."

'Not robust enough'

Meanwhile a drug called nivolumab was accepted to treat Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer of the white blood cells.

It is used on patients who have exhausted all other treatment options, rapidly reducing symptoms and improving life quality.

In younger patients, it may provide a "bridge" to stem cell transplant which could cure the disease, the SMC added.

Ustekinumab was accepted for the treatment of Crohn's Disease, which causes inflammation of the digestive system.

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Media captionPauline Harrison said she was disappointed that selexipag was not approved for use on the NHS

However the SMC rejected a new treatment for pulmonary arterial hypertension.

It said evidence of the clinical and economic benefits of the drug selexipag was "not robust enough".

Patients living with the condition have expressed disappointment at the SMC's decision.

Pauline Harrison, from Inverness, who was diagnosed with pulmonary arterial hypertension during pregnancy seven years ago, told BBC Scotland she wants the SMC to reconsider.

"They are just looking at the cost first," she said.

"And I am sorry, but you cannot put a price on a life. That's the way I think.

"I think people should be given a chance to try the medication out. If the results are good, and it is beneficial for the patient, then I really don't think they should even look at the cost."

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