NHS chief Simon Stevens has announced that NHS England has struck a deal with MSD, endorsed by NICE, to make the lung cancer drug pembrolizumab available for routine use on the NHS.

New trial results show pembrolizumab extends life for certain adults with lung cancer for more than a year.

Pembrolizumab is the first drug to break the new budget impact threshold for new products costing more than £20 million a year, which is why NHS England has worked closely with MSD to reach a deal, showing the new system works for patients, the taxpayer and industry.

The drug, which is also known as Keytruda, would have cost around £84,000 per patient at its full list price. NHS England and MSD have agreed a confidential arrangement for reimbursement which will enable NICE to recommend it be routinely available on the NHS.

Simon Stevens, NHS England chief executive said: “This is another milestone in our rapidly improving modern NHS cancer care. This win-win deal for patients and taxpayers brings genuine innovation and proven survival gains to cancer patients across England.”

Meindert Boysen, director of the NICE centre for health technology evaluation, said: “We have to make sure that any new treatment we recommend works well and is a good use of NHS resources. Recent changes to the CDF mean we have more flexibility in our process so we can grant early access to promising drugs whilst more data is gathered on their long-term benefits.


Pembrolizumab has previously been available via the Early Access to Medicines Scheme, it is also one of the first drugs to be made available via the new CDF, while the findings of a new study that would answer uncertainties around the evidence were collected.

It is licensed to treat untreated lung cancer which has spread to other parts of the body, where tumours have specific protein and genetic markers. Treatment gives patients an average of an extra 16 months of life.