New drug for melanoma available in UK under early access scheme

New drug for melanoma available in UK under early access scheme

11 Mar 2015

The executive agency of the Department of Health of England cancer accepted the cancer drug pembrolizumab (Keytruda) under the U.K.’s new Early Access to Medicines Scheme (EAMS), a program introduced to help patients benefit from promising, innovative treatments before a European license has been granted.

Pembrolizumab, which works by boosting the immune system, has yet to be licensed in Europe and it is the first medicine to be made available to patients in Britain under a new early access scheme.

Important early study findings and unmet medical need

Pembrolizumab is one of the first of a new generation of immuno-oncology therapies called anti-PD-1s (programmed death receptor-1). The treatment had been cleared to treat adults and children from 12 years of age with advanced melanoma, after other drugs had failed.


Pembrolizumab was accepted under the scheme based on the significance of early study findings and unmet medical need. It had already received a "promising innovative medicine" designation in Britain in October 2014.

The treatment will be available for one year

The British initiative follows criticism that Britain's state-run healthcare system is too slow to adopt new treatments.

Under this scheme, Merck’s cancer drug will be available for a year after which time it can be renewed. The drug, already marketed in the US, is not available in Europe yet as the European Marketing Authorization is under review.

U.K.’s Early Access to Medicines Scheme is a program funded by drug companies.


Source: Reuters

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