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Bone marrow treatments win approval

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The health watchdog has approved two bone marrow cancer treatments for use on the NHS.

Thalidomide and Velcade (bortezomib) will be made available for some patients with multiple myeloma, under new draft guidance from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).

The guidance recommends Thalidomide be administered in combination with two other drugs for people who cannot tolerate high-dose chemotherapy with a stem cell transplant. Velcade is recommended in combination with the two drugs if the patient cannot tolerate Thalidomide.

Up to 4,000 people a year are diagnosed with the disease each year in the UK, with around 2,600 dying from it.

NICE said: “The evidence suggested that in terms of clinical effectiveness the two regimens were equivalent, but Thalidomide regimens were more cost effective than the (Velcade) regimen.”

The average cost of Velcade per treatment cycle is £3,000 while the cost of Thalidomide is £2,100, according to figures from NICE. Janssen-Cilag, which makes Velcade, said it planned to challenge the decision, which is subject to appeal.

Dr Carole Longson, health technology evaluation centre director at NICE said: “We are pleased to be able to provisionally recommend these two treatments for people with multiple myeloma.

“The evidence clearly showed that both thalidomide and bortezomib regimens are more effective at delaying disease progression and improving patients’ life expectancy than the current treatment of an alkylating agent and corticosteroid alone.”

Click here to see the NICE guidance

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