KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab) is First Medicine to be Made Available to Patients Through U.K. Early Access to Medicines Scheme (EAMS) for Advanced Melanoma
March 10, 2015 8:01 pm ET
EAMS Aims to Give U.K. Patients Access to Promising, Innovative Treatments Prior to European License
KENILWORTH, N.J.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Merck (NYSE:MRK), known as MSD outside the United States and Canada,
today announced that the company’s anti-PD-1 therapy, pembrolizumab,
which is marketed in the U.S. under the name KEYTRUDA®, is
the first treatment to be accepted under the U.K.’s new Early Access to
Medicines Scheme (EAMS). Pembrolizumab was accepted under the scheme for
the treatment of advanced melanoma based on the significance of the
early study findings and unmet medical need. Pembrolizumab received the
Promising Innovative Medicine (PIM) designation in the U.K., on Oct. 10,
In 2014, the U.K. Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency
(MHRA) introduced the EAMS to help patients benefit from promising,
innovative treatments before a European license has been granted. The
European Marketing Authorization for pembrolizumab for the treatment of
advanced melanoma is currently under review.
“Merck has charted a path to accelerate the development of
pembrolizumab, and is collaborating with governments around the world to
bring our anti-PD-1 therapy to cancer patients,” said Dr. Roger
Perlmutter, president, Merck Research Laboratories. “This acceptance of
pembrolizumab into the Scheme will enable many patients in the U.K. with
advanced melanoma to gain earlier access to pembrolizumab, and
underscores the importance of creating new mechanisms to bring promising
medicines to patients for whom there are limited options.”
Pembrolizumab is one of the first of a new generation of immuno-oncology
therapies called anti-PD-1s (programmed death receptor-1). The EAMS
acceptance was based on review of data for pembrolizumab from
KEYNOTE-001, the largest Phase 1b study of an anti-PD-1 therapy in
patients with advanced melanoma. Pembrolizumab was previously granted
Breakthrough Therapy Designation for advanced melanoma by the U.S. Food
and Drug Administration based on these data, and approved in September
“This news will be greatly received by the melanoma community in the
U.K. At the moment, there are limited options for advanced melanoma
patients, the majority of whom are in difficult positions which simply
means they cannot afford to play any kind of waiting game,” said Gillian
Nuttall, Melanoma UK. “We welcome early access to this treatment for
advanced patients made possible through this new scheme. There is
clearly an unmet need and we are delighted such progress is being made.”
“We welcome the Government’s proactive approach in facilitating early
access to medicines for critically ill patients and are delighted that
pembrolizumab will be the first innovative medicine to be available to
patients through the Early Access to Medicines Scheme,” said Mike Nally,
managing director for MSD UK and Ireland.
To date, more than 3,500 patients in over 40 countries have received
early access to pembrolizumab for the treatment of advanced melanoma
through the company’s global expanded access program. Today, Merck is
advancing a broad and fast-growing clinical development program for
pembrolizumab with more than 70 clinical trials – across more than 30
tumor types and over 8,000 patients – both as a monotherapy and in
combination with other therapies.
About U.K. Early Access to Medicines Scheme
The U.K. EAMS aims to give patients with life threatening or seriously
debilitating conditions access to medicines that do not yet have a
marketing authorization when there is a clear unmet medical need. Under
the scheme, the MHRA will give a scientific opinion on the benefit/risk
balance of the medicine, based on the data available when the EAMS
submission was made. The opinion lasts for a year and can be renewed.
The scheme is voluntary and the opinion from MHRA does not replace the
normal licensing procedures for medicines. More information is available
on the MHRA website at https://www.gov.uk/apply-for-the-early-access-to-medicines-scheme-eams.
About KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab)
KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab) is a humanized monoclonal antibody that blocks
the interaction between PD-1 (programmed death receptor-1) and its
ligands, PD-L1 and PD-L2. By binding to the PD-1 receptor and blocking
the interaction with the receptor ligands, KEYTRUDA releases the PD-1
pathway-mediated inhibition of the immune response, including the
anti-tumor immune response.
KEYTRUDA is indicated in the United States at a dose of 2 mg/kg
administered as an intravenous infusion over 30 minutes every three
weeks for the treatment of patients with unresectable or metastatic
melanoma and disease progression following ipilimumab and, if BRAF V600
mutation positive, a BRAF inhibitor. This indication is approved under
accelerated approval based on tumor response rate and durability of
response. An improvement in survival or disease-related symptoms has not
yet been established. Continued approval for this indication may be
contingent upon verification and description of clinical benefit in the
Selected Important Safety Information for KEYTRUDA®
Pneumonitis occurred in 12 (2.9%) of 411 patients with advanced melanoma
receiving KEYTRUDA (the approved indication in the United States),
including Grade 2 or 3 cases in 8 (1.9%) and 1 (0.2%) patients,
respectively. Monitor patients for signs and symptoms of pneumonitis.
Evaluate suspected pneumonitis with radiographic imaging. Administer
corticosteroids for Grade 2 or greater pneumonitis. Withhold KEYTRUDA
for Grade 2; permanently discontinue KEYTRUDA for Grade 3 or 4
Colitis (including microscopic colitis) occurred in 4 (1%) of 411
patients, including Grade 2 or 3 cases in 1 (0.2%) and 2 (0.5%) patients
respectively, receiving KEYTRUDA. Monitor patients for signs and
symptoms of colitis. Administer corticosteroids for Grade 2 or greater
colitis. Withhold KEYTRUDA for Grade 2 or 3; permanently discontinue
KEYTRUDA for Grade 4 colitis.
Hepatitis (including autoimmune hepatitis) occurred in 2 (0.5%) of 411
patients, including a Grade 4 case in 1 (0.2%) patient, receiving
KEYTRUDA. Monitor patients for changes in liver function. Administer
corticosteroids for Grade 2 or greater hepatitis and, based on severity
of liver enzyme elevations, withhold or discontinue KEYTRUDA.
Hypophysitis occurred in 2 (0.5%) of 411 patients, including a Grade 2
case in 1 and a Grade 4 case in 1 (0.2% each) patient, receiving
KEYTRUDA. Monitor for signs and symptoms of hypophysitis. Administer
corticosteroids for Grade 2 or greater hypophysitis. Withhold KEYTRUDA
for Grade 2; withhold or discontinue for Grade 3; and permanently
discontinue KEYTRUDA for Grade 4 hypophysitis.
Nephritis occurred in 3 (0.7%) patients receiving KEYTRUDA, consisting
of one case of Grade 2 autoimmune nephritis (0.2%) and two cases of
interstitial nephritis with renal failure (0.5%), one Grade 3 and one
Grade 4. Monitor patients for changes in renal function. Administer
corticosteroids for Grade 2 or greater nephritis. Withhold KEYTRUDA for
Grade 2; permanently discontinue KEYTRUDA for Grade 3 or 4 nephritis.
Hyperthyroidism occurred in 5 (1.2%) of 411 patients, including Grade 2
or 3 cases in 2 (0.5%) and 1 (0.2%) patients respectively, receiving
KEYTRUDA. Hypothyroidism occurred in 34 (8.3%) of 411 patients,
including a Grade 3 case in 1 (0.2%) patient, receiving KEYTRUDA.
Thyroid disorders can occur at any time during treatment. Monitor
patients for changes in thyroid function (at the start of treatment,
periodically during treatment, and as indicated based on clinical
evaluation) and for clinical signs and symptoms of thyroid disorders.
Administer corticosteroids for Grade 3 or greater hyperthyroidism.
Withhold KEYTRUDA for Grade 3; permanently discontinue KEYTRUDA for
Grade 4 hyperthyroidism. Isolated hypothyroidism may be managed with
replacement therapy without treatment interruption and without
Other clinically important immune-mediated adverse reactions can occur.
The following clinically significant, immune-mediated adverse reactions
occurred in less than 1% of patients treated with KEYTRUDA: exfoliative
dermatitis, uveitis, arthritis, myositis, pancreatitis, hemolytic
anemia, partial seizures arising in a patient with inflammatory foci in
brain parenchyma, adrenal insufficiency, myasthenic syndrome, optic
neuritis, and rhabdomyolysis.
For suspected immune-mediated adverse reactions, ensure adequate
evaluation to confirm etiology or exclude other causes. Based on the
severity of the adverse reaction, withhold KEYTRUDA and administer
corticosteroids. Upon improvement of the adverse reaction to Grade 1 or
less, initiate corticosteroid taper and continue to taper over at least
1 month. Restart KEYTRUDA if the adverse reaction remains at Grade 1 or
less. Permanently discontinue KEYTRUDA for any severe or Grade 3
immune-mediated adverse reaction that recurs and for any
life-threatening immune-mediated adverse reaction.
Based on its mechanism of action, KEYTRUDA may cause fetal harm when
administered to a pregnant woman. If used during pregnancy, or if the
patient becomes pregnant during treatment, apprise the patient of the
potential hazard to a fetus. Advise females of reproductive potential to
use highly effective contraception during treatment and for 4 months
after the last dose of KEYTRUDA.
For the treatment of advanced melanoma, KEYTRUDA was discontinued for
adverse reactions in 6% of 89 patients who received the recommended dose
of 2 mg/kg and 9% of 411 patients across all doses studied. Serious
adverse reactions occurred in 36% of patients receiving KEYTRUDA. The
most frequent serious adverse drug reactions reported in 2% or more of
patients were renal failure, dyspnea, pneumonia, and cellulitis.
The most common adverse reactions (reported in ≥20% of patients) were
fatigue (47%), cough (30%), nausea (30%), pruritus (30%), rash (29%),
decreased appetite (26%), constipation (21%), arthralgia (20%), and
The recommended dose of KEYTRUDA is 2 mg/kg administered as an
intravenous infusion over 30 minutes every three weeks until disease
progression or unacceptable toxicity. No formal pharmacokinetic drug
interaction studies have been conducted with KEYTRUDA. It is not known
whether KEYTRUDA is excreted in human milk. Because many drugs are
excreted in human milk, instruct women to discontinue nursing during
treatment with KEYTRUDA. Safety and effectiveness of KEYTRUDA have not
been established in pediatric patients.
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Please see Prescribing Information for KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab) at http://www.merck.com/product/usa/pi_circulars/k/keytruda/keytruda_pi.pdf
and the Medication Guide for KEYTRUDA at http://www.merck.com/product/usa/pi_circulars/k/keytruda/keytruda_mg.pdf.
KEYTRUDA® is a registered trademark of Merck
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