NICE Recommends Lung Cancer Drug

December 2, 2016

The UK’s NICE recommended pembrolizumab for the treatment of patients with advanced lung cancer, reversing the institute’s earlier decision.

In a draft guidance released on Dec. 2, 2016, the United Kingdom’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommended pembrolizumab for the treatment of adults with advanced lung cancer. Earlier in 2016, NICE’s appraisal committee did not recommend pembrolizumab because there were uncertainties about the drug’s long-term benefits. NICE said this was reversed when Merck, Sharp & Dohme, who market the drug, presented newer data and offered further discount on the drug.  

“People with advanced non-small-cell lung cancer have had limited treatment options, so it is great that pembrolizumab will now be routinely available,” said Carole Longson, director of the NICE Centre for Health Technology Evaluation in a statement. “The company put forward a fairly-priced proposal that reflected the benefits their drug offered. If companies work with us to price drugs reasonably and manage any uncertainties in the evidence base, we can continue to recommend patients have routine access to the treatments they need.”

NICE also said that pembrolizumab should be used and then stopped at two years if a person’s disease has not worsened. The institute said it expects additional data on pembrolizumab to be released soon, and NICE will review its guidance once this information becomes available. Pembrolizumab blocks the activity of PD-L1, which is produced in larger amounts on cancerous cells than normal cells. By blocking PD-L1 it helps the person’s own immune cells to attack the cancer. Although this a draft recommendation, changes to the Cancer Drugs Fund mean that pembrolizumab will immediately be funded by NHS England.

Source: NICE