Friday, August 9, 2013

Goodbye, Bexxar

Sad news today for lymphoma patients: GlaxoSmithKline is discontinuing its production of Bexxar, the RadioImmunoTherapy treatment that was so helpful to lots of Follicular Lymphoma patients.

There hasn't been a whole lot of fanfare about it; google "Bexxar" and there aren't any press releases or stories about it (at least as I am writing this). But the page does have a brief message near the top of its homepage, that says

GSK plans to discontinue the manufacture and sale of the BEXXAR therapeutic regimen (tositumomab and iodine I 131 tositumomab). The last day to schedule dosing for BEXXAR will be February 11, 2014 with final patient-availability on February 20, 2014.
For more information, contact the GSK Response Center at 1-888-825-5249

That's about it. Though Lymphoma Rock Star Jamie Reno does have an extensive piece on his site about Bexxar and the implications of its discontinuation for all of us. Reno's Follicular Lymphoma was treated with Bexxar in 1999, and he enjoyed a progression-free life for more than 13 years.It's a nice piece, and Reno's anger comes through very clearly.

It's probably not surprising, in some ways, that GSK made the decision. I've written a lot about RIT in the last 5 years -- both the promise it holds and the difficulties it entails. There are reimbursement problems with RIT, which stem from the way it is classified by Medicare. And it's not easy to administer -- not as easy as Rituxan, or most chemos, which can be given right in the oncologist's office. RIT, including Bexxar, needs to be administered by a nuclear medicine specialist, with help from a small team. Kind of a pain to put together, and most oncologists would just as soon do chemo and take care of it themselves. It never really gained the popularity that it should have.

It is also not surprising because GSK didn't seem to make much of an effort to expand its use, unlike the makers of Zevalin, Bexxar's RIT cousin. Zevalin has been involved in clinical trials in the last few years to allow more patients to use it. Bexxar didn't. So, if nothing else, Zevalin's name was out there more than Bexxar's, so more patients might have known about it.

The good news, as I wrote about last week, is that at least one new RIT version is in the pipeline. It has a short wavelength, which makes it (maybe) a little closer to Bexxar than it is to Zevalin. Not necessarily a Bexxar substitute -- I'm mostly looking for things to be positive about.

But overall, there isn't much positive to the news. When more arrows in the quiver bring us hope, this amounts to one fewer arrow.

(I can't end so negatively. There's still a LOT of arrows in that quiver.....)


Anonymous said...

good thing Zevalin is still in the quiver, from what i read zevalin is a more effective treatment than Bexxar? or just because its promoted more efficiently by the manufacturer

Anonymous said...

this is Jeanne btw :)

Lymphomaniac said...

Hi Jeanne. Nice to hear from you.
From what I know, it was a toss-up for the two: Zevalin had better numbers, with more people getting a response, but Bexxar had potentially less damage to healthy surrounding tissue because it had a shorter radioactive wavelength. Really, though, they're both used so infrequently it's kind of hard to tell which is better. I would have preferred to have had a choice....