It costs $156,000 a year and anyone who suffers from cancer or knows somebody who does or did (that is, everybody) will most likely argue it is worth every penny. That’s an obstacle most payers will likely be happy to take on (after all, the people who staff insurance companies have also been touched by cancer), because Keytruda’s (pembrolizumab) success seems to be the biggest victory that the war against this disease has afforded patients in years.
The FDA which—fairly or unfairly depending on your perspective—has been faulted for taking too long to approve medications didn’t waste time with this baby. The FDA says that Keytruda can be used for almost any solid tumors with one of two genetic abnormalities that have not responded to first-line treatment. It makes the drug the first to be given the status of first tissue/site-agnostic.
Now more proof of the drug’s efficacy, the New York Times reports. A study in Science looked at 86 patients who were given the drug in a trial. They had a variety of cancers. But all those cancers had resisted every other treatment in its grim march to advanced state. Then they took Keytruda.
“After taking pembrolizumab, 66 patients had their tumors shrink substantially and stabilize, instead of continuing to grow,” the New York Times reports. “Among them were 18 patients whose tumors vanished and have not returned.”
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York knows a good thing when it sees it and promptly hired the study’s lead investigator, Luis A. Diaz Jr., MD.
José Baselga, MD, the institution’s physician in chief, tells the newspaper: “This is absolutely brilliant.”
The New York Times: “The drug’s effects have been so durable that the investigators do not know how long the results should be expected to persist or how long these patients might expect to survive. That kind of result, Dr. Baselga said, ‘is insane.’”
Source: New York Times