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Novartis' Jakavi reduces risk of death in patients with rare blood cancer

Novartis AG said the medicine Jakavi reduced the risk of death and fatal blood clots in patients with a rare type of blood cancer.

The conclusion was based on a post-approval study comparing the Swiss company's drug against best available therapy for patients with polycythemia vera who were either resistant or intolerant to treatment with hydroxyurea, which is prescribed to people with sickle cell anemia and certain cancer types.

Novartis compared the data from patients who received Jakavi in a previously conducted phase 3 trial known as Response, against those that were treated in a real-world setting with the best therapy available to them.

Polycythemia vera is a slow-growing blood cancer that can cause heart attacks in patients. It affects up to three per 100,000 people globally each year, according to Novartis.

"This latest research supports the use of Jakavi to help people with polycythemia vera gain better control of their disease when hydroxyurea is not an option," Alberto Alvarez-Larran, the study's lead investigator, said in a statement.

Novartis licensed Jakavi, which is also known as ruxolitinib, from Incyte Corp. for all markets outside the U.S.

Separately, Novartis said another study, known as Jump, indicated that about 82.1% patients with myelofibrosis, a serious bone marrow disorder, who received Jakavi had at least 50% reduction in their spleen size.

"With limited treatment options, patients with myeloproliferative neoplasms often struggle to keep their disease under control. The research conducted by Novartis teams and our physician partners in both [polycythemia vera] and [myelofibrosis] is helping to clarify how Jakavi can help relieve disease burden for patients," said Samit Hirawat, Novartis' head of oncology global drug development.