NHS England reaches deal to make Gilead's CAR-T cell therapy Yescarta available via Cancer Drugs Fund

Adults in England with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) and primary mediastinal B-cell lymphoma who have failed two or more previous therapies will have access to Gilead Sciences' Yescarta (axicabtagene ciloleucel) after the NHS on Friday announced a deal allowing the CAR-T cell therapy to enter the Cancer Drugs Fund. 

Yescarta gained approval in Europe in August for the treatment of adults with relapsed or refractory DLBCL and primary mediastinal large B-cell lymphoma, after two or more lines of systemic therapy. However, at the same time, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommended against routine NHS funding of Yescarta, citing a lack of data comparing the treatment to salvage chemotherapy. 

Commenting on the latest decision, Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said the "announcement is proof-positive that we are open to constructive and flexible partnerships with industry that rapidly bring life sciences innovation to NHS patients in a way that is also fair to British taxpayers." Meanwhile, Hilary Hutton-Squire, general manager in the UK and Ireland for Gilead, added "the speed of this decision shows how research-based life-sciences companies and the NHS can partner together for the benefit of patients in the UK." 

NHS England said that under the confidential deal negotiated with Gilead, up to 200 patients a year will receive Yescarta. The treatment, which costs nearly 300 000 pounds ($392 000) at its full list price, will soon be available at hospitals in Birmingham, Bristol, London, Manchester and Newcastle. 

Last month, Novartis' Kymriah (tisagenlecleucel) became the first CAR-T cell therapy available on the NHS, allowing it to be used to treat children and young adults with B cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia that is refractory, in relapse post-transplant or in second or later relapse. Shortly afterwards, NICE determined that the therapy is too expensive to recommend as a treatment for adults with relapsed or refractory DLBCL after two or more lines of systemic therapy. 

For related analysis, see ViewPoints: NICE sets up first EU reimbursement hurdles for CAR-Ts.

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