The makers of Keytruda have been forced to amend trial data given to doctors, after overstating the benefits of the melanoma drug.
The ground-breaking new cancer drug is at the centre of a major PR campaign, by both the drug company and terminal cancer patients, to gain public funding through Pharmac.
Made by Pharmaceutical company Merck Sharp and Dohme (MSD), Keytruda is the brand name for Pembrolizumab – a biologic drug for terminal melanoma patients, that has produced promising results in early clinical trials.
Keytruda branding was understood to be a major feature of a recent New Zealand Society of Oncologists conference, where slides showing some of the latest clinical trial data were presented.
In a letter to conference attendees, Merck’s oncology clinical director Colin Yeoman said the headline on one of the slides was misleading.
It was able to be interpreted that 100 per cent of patients that had received the drug as a first-line treatment had had a postive response.
“MSD was concerned that using the heading from the presentation… ‘Duration of Response in First Line’ could be misinterpreted as the response in all first line patients,” said Yeoman in the letter.
“Our intent was therefore to clearly communicate that only the responding patients were represented in the [right-hand chart].
“Despite our best intent, having reviewed this and in the absence of published updated duration data for this patient cohort; the information on this slide does not support the 30 months claim. It does however, support that in responding first-line patients, the responses were durable.”
That unsupported claim was that “most patients that responded to first-line treatment were still responding at 30 months”.
So Andrew Little has vowed to over-ride Pharmac and fund this drug at a cost of possibly $100 million – and all on the basis of an incorrect PR campaign. He should be embarrassed.