The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has approved a new drug that will improve the recovery of over half of stem cell transplant patients, after a lengthy consultation with blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan.
NICE has announced that letermovir (Prevymis) which is used to prevent a virus called cytomegalovirus (CMV) from causing serious illness in patients after stem cell transplant, has been approved. It will be available to patients in England and Wales in the coming months, and Northern Ireland in the future. The decision follows calls from patients, clinical experts and Anthony Nolan.
Letermovir is the first drug licensed for prevention of CMV reactivation or disease in patients who have received an allogeneic stem cell transplant. Currently, treatments are used to control CMV reactivation when it has been detected and is already occurring. However, these treatments come with a range of debilitating side effects.
A survey of stem cell transplant patients run by Anthony Nolan showed that CMV reactivation was a significant setback for patients. Over two thirds (67%) of respondents stated that CMV reactivation hindered or extended their recovery post-transplant, and over half (58%) said it had a negative or very negative effect on their emotional health and wellbeing.
The decision to make the treatment available for stem cell recipients taken by NICE follows a similar decision taken by The Scottish Medicine Consortium (SMC) in March.
Henny Braund, Chief Executive of Anthony Nolan said: “I am delighted that NICE have approved the use of letermovir, in what is an important step forward. This decision may allow stem cell transplant patients in England, Wales and Northern Ireland access a treatment to significantly improve their quality of life. Recovering from a stem cell transplant can be a long road and letermovir may help patients avoid the most difficult side effects associated with other treatment options. We’re happy to see that NICE views patient experience so highly in their decision-making.”
Chloe Anthias, Medical Director of Anthony Nolan, said: “This is great news for stem cell transplant patients in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and will ensure parity of care across the nations. The current treatments for CMV reactivation can have a very negative effect on quality of life, but the NICE decision represents a significant step forward.”
Letermovir will be in available to patients in England within 90 days, in Wales within 60 days and in Northern Ireland when approved by the Department of Health.