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Rituximab approved for leukaemia use


Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia patients can be treated on the NHS with rituximab, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has recommended.

The health service has three months to implement the institute’s guidance, which states that the drug should be used alongside chemotherapy drugs fludarabine and cyclophosphamide to treat relapsed or refractory chronic lymphocytic leukaemia.

The only exception for use would be on patients who have not responded to fludarabine in the past, or who have suffered a relapse within six months of treatment or who have used rituximab before.

However, an appeal earlier this year secured permission to prescribe ritumixab, combined with fludarabine and cyclophosphamide, to those who have been given the drug in a clinical trial but at lower dosage than the amount for which it has been licensed. Patients who have already tried rituximab alongside other chemotherapy medications in trials are also allowed to have it prescribed.

NICE Clinical and Public Health Director, Peter Littlejohns, said: “Where rituximab has been recommended in the context of research, this is because of a lack of evidence relating to the treatment’s efficacy in those instances. Hopefully there will be more research in these areas to help NICE develop firmer recommendations, when this guidance is updated.”

Copyright © Press Association 2010


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