A Big Month for Multiple Myeloma

Darzalex, Ninlaro and Empliciti approved to treat multiple myeloma in November

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh

(RxWiki News) Before November, there were seven FDA-approved medications to treat multiple myeloma. Now that November is over, there are 10.

And that's a big leap forward for patients with an often-deadly form of blood cancer that the American Cancer Society estimates will sicken nearly 27,000 people this year. The three new multiple myeloma treatments approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in November were Darzalex (daratumumab), Ninlaro (ixazomib) and Empliciti (elotuzumab).

The recently approved multiple myeloma treatments also brought new ways to treat this disease, which attacks a type of white blood cell in bone marrow and can compromise the immune system and damage bone health. All three of the new treatments were approved for use in patients who had not responded to other multiple myeloma treatments.

John P. Calvillo, PharmD, director of pharmacy for CentRx Pharmacy at McAllen Medical Center in Texas, told RxWiki News that having multiple treatment options for any disease can benefit patients.

"As with any illness, having a choice of treatment options normally translates into a more positive outcome for the patient," Dr. Calvillo said. "Clinically and financially, this will benefit all patients suffering from multiple myeloma."

Empliciti (marketed by Bristol-Myers Squibb) and Darzalex (marketed by Janssen) are members of a drug class called monoclonal antibodies. This drug class causes the patient's immune system to attack multiple myeloma cells.

“We are continuing to learn about the ways the immune system interacts with different types of cancer, including multiple myeloma," said Richard Pazdur, MD, director of the FDA's Office of Hematology and Oncology Products, in a press release about Empliciti.

Ninlaro, which is marketed by Takeda, is a proteasome inhibitor. Drugs of this type block enzymes produced by multiple myeloma cells, which keeps the cells from growing.

All three of these new drugs appeared safe and effective in studies of multiple myeloma patients, according to the FDA. They appeared to increase survival, reduce tumor size, delay disease progression or a combination of the three.

Patients in the studies of these drugs reported various side effects, which ranged from fever and cough to nerve damage and low blood platelet count.

Dr. Calvillo noted that treatments for multiple myeloma and all other diseases are not "one-size-fits-all."

"Not all treatments work for all patients, and, in some cases, resistance to older treatments requires us to continually look for new avenues to combat the illness," he said.

Review Date: 
December 3, 2015
Last Updated:
December 4, 2015