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Ground breaking New Skin Cancer Drug Approved for NHS Use

A ground breaking new drug that can prolong the lives of patients with advanced skin cancer has been recommended for widespread use by the NHS.

Skin Cancer
‘Keytruda,’ also known as ‘Pembrolizumab,’ has now been approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) for treating patients with advanced skin cancer who have already unsuccessfully tried ipilimumab - a drug to treat advanced melanoma.

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that can spread to other organs in the body. It is the fifth most common cancer in the UK, responsible for around 13,000 new cases every year and more than 2,000 deaths – more deaths than all other skin cancers combined.

Keytruda was the first drug to be approved and fast-tracked through the UK’s ‘Early Access to Medicine Scheme’ (EAMS). The EAMS system was introduced in 2014 to provide a means for patients with serious life-threatening conditions to gain quicker access to new therapies once the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MRHA) has determined the benefits of the drug outweigh the risks.

This bypasses the usual protocol for new NHS treatments, which must normally be granted a European license first, as well as pass a cost-effectiveness assessment by NICE or the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC).

An Important Advance

Keytruda is considered a "next generation" drug in cancer care, and has been described by scientists as “the most important advance against the disease for decades.”

The drug is given via a drip once every three weeks and works by stimulating the body’s immune system to stall and shrink advanced tumours to keep them at bay for as long as possible.

At around £3,000 per dose, it is not cheap, but manufacturer Merck Sharp and Dohme has agreed to give the NHS an undisclosed discount on the price.

Keytruda provides another option for patients with advanced skin cancer and Slater and Gordon very much welcome any drug that succeeds in inhibiting a tumour’s ability to spread around the body.

Unfortunately, cases of melanoma occur regularly in the work of our Clinical Negligence team. If diagnosed early, skin cancer is usually curable but if diagnosis is delayed for more than a few months and the melanoma is left to develop and spread, it can easily become fatal.

Some preventable delays in diagnosis occur because GPs mistakenly fail to recognise melanoma symptoms and refer patients to specialists early enough. But, most of the mistakes we encounter occur when pathologists misinterpret tissue samples under the microscope.

Rabia Ibrahim is a Medical Negligence Solicitor at Slater and Gordon in London.

Slater and Gordon Lawyers can advise on whether you may have a claim for delayed diagnosis of cancer. If you or a family member suffered from melanoma or discovered the cancer late on because the symptoms were missed by a medical professional, you should call us for a free consultation on freephone 0800 916 9049 or contact us online.

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