Immunotherapy drug made available for some NHS patients with Hodgkin lymphoma

Cancer Research UK

An immunotherapy drug will be made available to some patients with Hodgkin lymphoma on the NHS in England.

Pembrolizumab (Keytruda) can now be used to treat patients who have not responded or stopped responding to standard treatment and aren’t able to have a stem cell transplant.

A recommendation from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) said the drug will be made available via the Cancer Drugs Fund, while more data is collected on its effectiveness.

“We’re pleased that NICE and the drug company have worked together to make pembrolizumab an option for some patients with Hodgkin lymphoma, following an earlier decision not to recommend the drug,” says Rose Gray, policy manager at Cancer Research UK.

Gathering evidence

There’s some evidence to suggest that patients live longer without their cancer getting worse on pembrolizumab compared to standard treatment.

But the drug was initially deemed to not be cost effective by NICE for Hodgkin lymphoma patients, as the long-term survival benefits aren’t clear.

In the latest meeting, the NICE committee decided that that it could be cost effective for patients with Hodgkin lymphoma who can’t currently have stem cell transplantation as part of their treatment. These patients have limited other treatment options. 

The committee recommended that pembrolizumab is made available through the Cancer Drugs Fund, which allows patients to access treatments before they are fully approved for use in the NHS. This gives the NHS and the drug company time to collect more data on the long-term benefits of the drug.

The company have agreed a discounted price.

“This is what the Cancer Drugs Fund is there for, to give patients early access to a drug while more evidence is gathered about how effective it is compared to other treatments,” says Gray.