Blood cancers

Reports of Arzerra’s demise are greatly exaggerated

Reports that the CLL drug ofatumumab (Arzerra) is to be discontinued have been rejected by distributor Novartis.

On 22 January the company from which the drug is licensed, Genmab,  announced that the monoclonal antibody treatment was to be withdrawn in all markets outside the US due to low usage.

The company said ofatumumab would be transitioned to “compassionate use” programs in non-US markets in a decision that “reflects the fact that many more drugs have become available for CLL over the last five years and that there is a low number of patients using Arzerra outside of the US market.”

“The compassionate use programs will ensure that patients who benefit from Arzerra can remain on treatment,” said GenMab CEO Jan van de Winkel.

However a spokesperson for Novartis Australia said the company had not been consulted on the Genmab statement and it had no plans to discontinue the product, which would continue to be available as before.

“There are no issues with continuity of supply, it’s business as usual,” she told the limbic.

In Australia, ofatumumab is approved for use in combination with chlorambucil for previously untreated patients with CLL and who are inappropriate for fludarabine-based therapy.

The drug was listed on the PBS in March 2015, and figures show there were 641 PBS-subsidised prescriptions for the drug in 2017.

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