AN INNOVATIVE new drug for the treatment of a complex blood cancer has been approved for use on the NHS in Scotland.

The Scottish Medicines Consortium agreed that daratumumab, also known as Darzalex, should be made available on a restricted basis for myeloma patients. Myeloma is the second most common form of blood cancer. The disease originates in bone marrow.

It is the first time an immunotherapy drug of this kind has been approved for use in myeloma in the UK. It is expected that around 90 patients will be eligible for the new treatment during the first year, rising to 418 patients by year five, although the actual uptake is expected to be lower.

Immunotherapy drugs use a patient's own immune system to attack myeloma cells with a view to killing them or stopping them from growing.

The SMC, Scotland's drug approval body, has agreed the drug should be available to patients who have had three previous lines of treatment, including two specific types of myeloma drug, and whose disease has progressed on their last treatment.

It will be made available to to eligible adult patients with relapsed and refractory multiple myeloma, which has become resistant to treatment over time. The SMC said fourth-line treatment options for these patients are currently "extremely limited" and daratumumab "addresses a significant area of unmet need".

The approval comes after a resubmission by the manufacturer, Janssen-Cilag Ltd, under the end of life and orphan process. It has been accepted with the condition of a Patient Access Scheme discount, so the actual cost to the NHS medicines budget has not been disclosed. Without the discount, the first six cycles cost £69,120.

Myeloma is the second most common form of blood cancer, and currently affects around 17,500 people in the UK, according to the Edinburgh-based charity Myeloma UK.

Rosemarie Finley, chief executive of the organisation said: "This is great news for myeloma patients in Scotland and their families.

"Daratumumab is an exciting and innovative new treatment which has been shown to have a very beneficial effect on length of remission in patients who respond.

"Despite the welcome approval of new drugs in recent years, there is still an urgent need for new myeloma treatments, especially for relapsed patients who have exhausted other standard treatment options."

She added: "Today's approval gives myeloma patients whose cancer has come back an important new treatment option."