CORRECTION: MabThera recommended in Scotland

Scottish physicians are now able to prescribe MabThera (rituximab) on the NHS, following a positive recommendation by the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC).

MabThera was recommended in combination with fludarabine and cyclophosphamide (FC) chemotherapy for previously untreated patients with the UK’s most common form of leukaemia, chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL).

When added to FC chemotherapy, research shows that rituximab more than doubles the number of CLL patients achieving complete remission and halts the progression of the disease for almost a year longer than chemotherapy alone.

Dr John Davies, Consultant Haematologist at Western General Hospital, Edinburgh, commented: “The addition of rituximab to chemotherapy is a major advance in the treatment of CLL and this is very welcome news for the entire CLL community. The guidance from the

SMC means that as of today, physicians in Scotland are able to prescribe rituximab for their patients, allowing many to enjoy longer periods of remission without debilitating symptoms.”

The decision supports an important part of rituximab’s broader licence for use with any suitable chemotherapy, which was granted by the EMEA in March 2009.

In the pivotal clinical trial, the addition of rituximab to FC chemotherapy extended progression-free survival by 10.5 months when compared to chemotherapy alone (3.5 years vs. 2.7 years). In addition, the number of patients achieving complete remission was more than twice that of chemotherapy alone (36% vs. 17.2%).

Jane Barnard, Chair of the CLL Support Association, said: “This recommendation puts Scotland in line with many other countries where rituximab is widely used. Every month that can be added to remission is incredibly valuable for a CLL patient, and rituximab has the potential to increase this time for many people.”

NICE is currently reviewing rituximab for England and Wales, with the final guidance expected at the end of July.