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UK price watchdog backs J&J's Darzalex combo to treat blood cancer type

The U.K. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommended the use of Johnson & Johnson's Darzalex in combination with Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd.'s Velcade and corticosteroid dexamethasone to treat a certain type of blood cancer through the Cancer Drugs Fund.

The Cancer Drugs Fund was established to make certain cancer drugs available for patients even when they have been deemed by NICE as too expensive or when the drugs lack long-term efficacy data to qualify for routine use within the U.K. National Health Service.

The combination was recommended as a treatment option for patients with previously treated multiple myeloma that has come back. Multiple myeloma is an incurable blood cancer that forms in plasma cells which are responsible for producing antibodies.

In a final appraisal document, the U.K. health authority said there is no long-term data demonstrating how long the treatment extends patients' lives. According to NICE, the combination treatment was also not cost-effective. The incremental cost-effectiveness ratio for Darzalex, or daratumumab, and Velcade, or bortezomib, plus dexamethasone was between £30,000 and £40,000 per quality-adjusted life year.

NICE has required J&J to collect updated overall survival data for the treatment from its late-stage Castor study.