Thursday, August 8, 2013

EXCLUSIVE: Creator of Lifesaving Cancer Therapy Comments on Drug Company's Decision to Kill It

Dr. Mark Kaminski, who developed Bexxar
Yesterday I broke the news here that GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), the international, multi-billion dollar drug company, has shockingly decided to stop making Bexxar, a remarkably effective, safe, FDA-approved drug for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma cancer. Bexxar saved my life in a clinical trial 14 years ago, and has saved the lives of so many others. 

In the 24 hours since my story ran, the response has been overwhelming and decisive. Patients and their loved ones are decrying GSK's decision to scrap this therapy, which studies have shown works better to eradicate follicular non-Hodgkin's lymphoma - the most common type of lymphoma - than any other treatment, including chemotherapy and/or Rituxan. And with fewer side effects.

I just heard from Dr. Mark Kaminski, the respected hematologist and researcher who co-developed Bexxar at the University of Michigan. Not surprisingly, he is very disappointed with GSK's decision. 

"Thousands of patients have been treated with Bexxar and many of them are alive today because of this treatment," Kaminski says. "My heart goes out to the patients with lymphoma, both currently diagnosed and future patients. It’s a crying shame."

In a statement, GSK says the decision to discontinue Bexxar "involved a thoughtful and careful evaluation of patient needs and the clinical use of the therapy. The use of Bexxar has been extremely limited and is projected to continue to decline. Additionally, there are other treatment options available for patients with relapsed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma."

But as I have noted, the other options are not as effective. Bexxar and its competitor, Zevalin, both give non-Hodgkin's lymphoma patients longer remissions than any other available treatment, including the so-called standard of care: chemotherapy and/or Rituxan. 

Bexxar is more effective and less toxic than the treatments that are still being used in far greater numbers. But it will soon be gone. Does this make any sense to you? 

Yes, yes, I understand this was a business decision for GSK. But I believe it is an untenable and shameful one. How can we let a company get away with unceremoniously dumping a treatment that is FDA approved, saves lives, and has minimal side effects? 

Given the fact that this drug works so well for a very common type of cancer, should there not be some sort of FAA statute in place that requires a company that has purchased the drug to put forth its best effort to keep this product afloat?

Are oncologists nationwide also to blame for not telling their patients about Bexxar? Yes. Absolutely. There has been a great reluctance in the mainstream medical establishment to embrace Bexxar, largely because doctors are more comfortable with the familiar - and because doctors sometimes lose money on Bexxar if their patients have to go elsewhere to do this specialized treatment.

But it is GSK's charge to market this product, to reach out to the patient community as well as the oncology community and make sure this treatment is given every chance to succeed. GSK didn't even come close to doing that.

Everyone who has contacted me over the last 24 hours wants to know what they can do to stop this from happening. What can we all do to convince GSK to be a good corporate citizen and save this drug? The two most obvious things you can do are 1) Contact your oncologist and 2) Contact GSK at 888-825-5249. 

I'm not an activist, I'm a journalist, cancer patient and patient advocate. But I will not let Bexxar die quietly.


  1. Your informational post is great resource to lots of peoples and i got a good knowledge to read your blog.

  2. Jamie, as NHL patient I am absolutely devastated by this news I have been battling this since 1999. I have been using using Rituxan, and have always kept Bexxar as my next line of attack for my lymphoma. I have had the opportunity to consult with Dr Mark Kaminski and I am heartbroken for him, his lifes work, and all the other NHL patients not being able to have access to Bexxar. Shame on GSK for NOT educating the Oncology Doctors, and SHAME on those Doctors who are informed, and choose to "Under prescribe" it because its NOT an in office treatment!!! Jamie, stay healthy, and thank you for your advocacy !!!!

    1. Thanks Carolyn, well said. Please contact me at my personal email I am doing what I can to spread the word about this. Cheers, Jamie

  3. My heart goes out to the patients with lymphoma, both currently diagnosed and future patients. It’s a crying shame

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