FDA approves quicker-to-administer drug for blood cancers

This photo provided by Genentech, the Roche Group’s biologic drug unit, shows vials of Rituxan Hycela. On Thursday, June 22, 2017, the Food and Drug Administration approved Rituxan Hycela, a more convenient version of a blockbuster drug for treating three common blood cancers. (Genentech via AP)

(AP) – U.S. regulators have approved a more convenient version of a blockbuster drug for treating three common blood cancers.

The Roche Group’s Rituxan, on the market for 20 years, is administered in a hospital or clinic through an intravenous drip that can take several hours.

On Thursday, the Food and Drug Administration approved the Swiss drugmaker’s new version, Rituxan Hycela (RIH’-tux-en HEYE’-cell-uh). It’s injected in about six minutes, shortening clinic visits.

It’s given every three weeks for six months to treat diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, for a total cost of about $48,600 without insurance — the same as for Rituxan.

Rituxan Hycela also was approved for treating follicular lymphoma and chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

Rituxan, which will still be available, is Roche’s top seller. It had 2016 sales of $7.5 billion.

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