Two new treatments funded for blood disorders and cancers
Up to 400 patients a year are likely to live longer as a result of PHARMAC funding two new medicines.
The medicines are azacitidine (Vidaza) and lenalidomide (Revlimid), which will be funded from 1 September.
Azacitidine is being funded for a group of blood disorders collectively known as myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS), and for two types of leukaemia (chronic myelomonocytic leukaemia and MDS-associated acute myeloid leukaemia).
Lenalidomide will be funded for multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer. It will be an alternative to the currently funded treatments bortezomib and thalidomide, and funded for use in patients if these treatments fail.
Director of Operations Sarah Fitt says both new medicines have proven effectiveness and should lead to patients living longer. They are important additions to the tools that haematologists will have to treat multiple myeloma, leukaemia and MDS.
“Clinical trials of azacitidine showed it nearly doubles the survival rate of people with MDS, compared to conventional treatment,” she says. “This is a significant improvement for this patient group, who have had limited treatment options.”
“In the case of lenalidomide, the aim of treatment is to delay disease progression and also to prolong life. The trials show that lenalidomide is effective in patients whose disease has progressed after receiving previous treatments.”
Sarah Fitt says another benefit of lenalidomide is that it doesn’t have some of the side effects of the other funded treatments, which can be debilitating for patients. Bortezomib and thalidomide can cause peripheral neuropathy, a condition that causes tingling, numbness and pain in hands and feet.
“So, as well as being an effective treatment, lenalidomide is less likely to cause debilitating peripheral neuropathy than the currently available treatments, so it may be a better treatment option for some patients.”