Hundreds of Kidney, Skin and Blood Cancer Patients May Be Cured from Breakthrough Drug


Cancer is a lethal disease finding ways in the world of therapeutics to be completely cured. Newer drugs are being formulated by scientists and marketed by the pharmaceutical companies at a rapid pace in order to entirely wipe out cancer. Approximately 40,000 cases of skin, breast, lung, bowel, and prostate are annually reported by the Irish Cancer Society. Health Service Executive (HSE) is playing significant roles in fighting cancer by approving the newest drugs for cancer therapy. Recently, HSE has approved a breakthrough drug, nivolumab for financial reimbursement that could benefit thousands of skin, kidney and blood cancer patients.

Nivolumab is produced by Bristol-Myers Squibb and marketed under the brand name Opdivo. This drug is controversial due to its high cost ranging from €50,000-€100,000 ($65,000 to $130,000) per patient per year. It has been revealed by Simon Harris, Minister for Health that the public health service has been sending applications to HSE to reimburse the treatments for almost 8 indications by nivolumab. After consulting with the department and assessing the circumstances, HSE has approved reimbursement of nivolumab for treating renal cell carcinoma (kidney cancer), melanoma (skin cancer) and Hodgkin lymphoma (blood cancer), instigating from 9th October.

In order to avoid the misuse of the drug, HSE would not support metastatic or locally advanced non-small cell lung cancer. Mr. Harris made it clear that HSE would not support the patients in private hospitals. Health insurers must deal directly with the private hospitals if they want to link their policy on the cover for treatment through nivolumab. HSE is considering all the applications after the detailed assessment process. The recommendation of merely Opdivo (nivolumab) or its combination with Yervoy (ipilimumab) by HSE has been confirmed by Bristol-Myers Squibb. This reimbursement process provides a potential benefit to the eligible patients with advanced kidney cancer, advanced melanoma and a hostile blood cancer, classical Hodgkin lymphoma (cHL).

Reimbursement of nivolumab monotherapy or combined therapy with ipilimumab has also been announced for advanced melanoma patients by Kay Curtin of Melanoma Support Ireland. Benjamin Hickey, General Manager of Bristol-Myers Squibb believed that advanced lung cancer patients would also be able to attain nivolumab treatment in future on Irish Health Service, as they are working hard to find such a possibility.