March 8, 2009

Maintenance Rituxan® Is Cost-effective for Follicular Lymphoma


Maintenance Rituxan® Is Cost-effective for Follicular Lymphoma

Continued treatment (maintenance therapy) with Rituxan® (rituximab) appears to be cost-effective, as well as safe and effective, in the treatment of follicular lymphoma, a form of low-grade non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. These results were recently published in the journal Clinical Lymphoma Myeloma.

Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) is a form of cancer that begins in the cells of the lymph system. The lymph system includes the spleen, thymus, tonsils, bone marrow, lymph nodes, and circulating immune cells. The main cells in the lymph system are lymphocytes, of which there are two types: B- and T-cells. Each cell type has a specific function in helping the body fight infection. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is characterized by the excessive accumulation of atypical (cancerous) lymphocytes. These lymphocytes can crowd the lymph system and suppress the formation and function of other immune and blood cells. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is categorized by the type of lymphocyte it involves and by the rate at which the cancer grows.

Follicular lymphoma is a type of NHL that is considered to be a low-grade or indolent lymphoma, meaning it is a slow-growing subset of NHL. Commonly, the targeted agent Rituxan is used as part of the treatment regimen for follicular lymphoma, as it binds to a specific component of B-cells. Once Rituxan binds to B-cells, which are cancerous in the majority of NHL cases, the cells are killed by the immune system. Rituxan also appears to have other anticancer mechanisms, which are currently being evaluated.

Treatment for follicular lymphoma often includes initial therapy, referred to as induction therapy, as well as continued therapy, referred to as maintenance therapy. Maintenance therapy is used for extended periods to provide continued suppression of the cancer. Results from several clinical trials have demonstrated that maintenance Rituxan safely improves both overall and progression-free survival for patients with follicular lymphoma. Cost-effectiveness of maintenance Rituxan is now under evaluation.

Researchers from the University of Kentucky recently conducted a clinical study to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of use of Rituxan as maintenance therapy among patients who were treated with Rituxan maintenance therapy for approximately two years. Based upon proposed clinical and mathematical models, the authors concluded that “Extended adjuvant [Rituxan] offers a clinical benefit to patients aged 65-70 years who have a second remission from [follicular lymphoma] at a cost generally acceptable to the US healthcare system.”

Patients with follicular NHL may wish to speak with their physician regarding their individual risks and benefits of maintenance therapy.

Reference: Hayslip JW, Simpson KN. Cost-effectiveness of extended adjuvant rituximab for US patients aged 65-70 years with follicular lymphoma in second remission. Clinical Lymphoma Myeloma. 2008;8:166-170.

Related News: Maintenance Rituxan® Is Safe for Follicular Lymphoma (7/3/2008)

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