Three new drugs, including two used to treat cancer, have been approved in Scotland.
The two new cancer drugs will be used to treat colon and rectum cancer and rare thyroid cancers, according to the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) which advises NHS Scotland on newly licensed drugs.
A third drug has been approved to treat severe rheumatoid arthritis in cases where other treatments have failed.
Pembrolizumab (Keytruda) was accepted for the treatment of colon and rectum cancer that has certain genetic changes.
The drug is an immunotherapy – a type of cancer treatment that boosts the body’s natural defences to fight the disease – and it could further delay disease progression compared to chemotherapy treatment.
Patients may also experience fewer side effects from pembrolizumab compared to other current treatments.
Selpercatinib (Retsevmo) was accepted for interim use for the treatment of rare thyroid cancers with a specific type of genetic change.
SMC confirmed patients living with these cancers can experience disabling symptoms such as pain, incapacitating breathlessness and cough.
The drug is expected to reduce these symptoms, leading to improvements in quality of life.
There are currently limited treatments for patients, according to SMC, but the committee confirmed a decision on whether selpercatinib will be a permanent option will be made subject to further evaluation of the drug.
David Ferguson, of Cancer Research UK in Scotland, welcomed the approval of pembrolizumab, describing it as a “landmark” decision for patients and their families as it is the first drug of its kind to be made available for colon and rectum cancer.
He said: “Pembrolizumab provides a more targeted approach to treating cancer, by helping the immune system to attack tumours.
“Studies have shown that it slows down the time that it takes for many different types of cancer to grow and spread around the body.
“This drug will now be offered to patients who have a specific type of colorectal cancer where the DNA repair mechanism is damaged.
“Prior to this approval, these patients had no options for treatment outside of chemotherapy.
“Today’s decision will make a real difference to their lives, offering them the chance of more precious time with their loved ones.”
Filgotinib (Jyseleca) was also accepted for the treatment of severe rheumatoid arthritis in cases where other treatments have failed or could not be tolerated.
Filgotinib provides another oral treatment option for patients with this condition and may help delay the progression of the disease and prolong the time patients can continue to work and live independently.
The committee was unable to accept amikacin liposomal nebuliser dispersion (Arikayce) as an add-on treatment for a chronic bacterial lung infection as the company’s evidence around the cost benefits was not strong enough.
The committee was also unable to accept mercaptamine (Procysbi) for use in patients with nephropathic cystinosis, a rare, inherited condition in which excess cysteine – an amino acid – builds up within cells, including the kidneys.
Mark MacGregor, SMC chairman, said: “The committee is pleased to be able to accept these three medicines for use by NHS Scotland,” adding, “We were unable to accept the new formulations of amikacin and mercaptamine as the evidence provided by the companies on the benefits of using these medicines instead of the current treatment options was not strong enough to justify the additional costs.”
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