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NICE issues leukaemia drug guidance

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The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has said a combination of rituximab and two other medicines should be used together to treat patients with recurring leukaemia.

The organisation issued its final draft guidance saying patients with relapsed or refractory chronic lymphocytic leukaemia should be treated with rituximab, which is also known as MabThera.

NICE also said in the guidance that the drug could be used in combination with fludarabine and cyclophosphamide.

However, the combination treatment should not be used when the condition has not previously responded to fludarabine, or has relapsed within six months of treatment.

When the condition has previously been treated with rituximab, the drug, in combination with fludarabine and cyclophosphamide, is recommended as a treatment but only in the context of research. Rituximab, in combination with chemotherapy agents other than fludarabine and cyclophosphamide, is also only recommended in the context of research.

Professor Peter Littlejohns, Clinical and Public Health Director at NICE said: “Rituximab, in combination with fludarabine and cyclophosphamide, will offer another treatment option for those patients with relapsed or refractory disease who may benefit most from the drug.”

NICE has not yet issued final guidance to the NHS. Until it does, NHS bodies are advised to make decisions locally on the funding of specific treatments.

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