Home administration of bortezomib (Velcade), as a once or twice-weekly subcutaneous self-injection is safe in patients with myeloma, significantly reducing hospital visits, and likely improving quality of life, a study shows.
The majority (43 of 52 patients) successfully self-administered bortezomib and completed the course. Also, hospital visits for those on the so-called Homecare programme reduced by 50%, with most visits comprising a fortnightly drug pickup from the drive-through pharmacy.
The work was presented as a poster by lead author and researcher, Kanchana De Abrew, hematology consultant at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, at this year’s virtual British Society of Haematology (BSH) meeting. De Abrew conducted the study while at Queen Alexandra Hospital, Portsmouth.
“We wanted to minimize patient visits to hospital because with travel time and waiting time, patients can easily find a visit takes up a whole morning, so this relates to their quality of life as well as having financial implications for patients,” Dr. De Abrew said in an interview. It also reduced the impact on day units and improved capacity for other services.
Dr. De Abrew noted that the study was conducted in the pre-COVID-19 era, but that the current enhanced threat of infection only served to reinforce the benefits of self-administration at home and avoiding unnecessary hospital visits.
“This project could easily be set up in other hospitals and some other centers have already contacted us about this. It might suit rural areas,” she added.
‘Safe and effective’
Dr. Matthew Jenner, consultant hematologist for University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, who was not involved in the study, remarked that the study demonstrated another way to deliver bortezomib outside of hospital in addition to home care services that require trained nurses to administer treatment. “With a modest amount of training of the patient and family, it is both a safe and effective way of delivering treatment. This reduces hospital visits for the patient and frees up much needed capacity for heavily stretched chemotherapy units, creating space for other newer treatments that require hospital attendance.
“It is of benefit all round to both the patients undertaking self-administration and those who benefit from improved capacity,” added Dr. Jenner.
Avoiding hospital visits
Myeloma patients are already immunosuppressed prior to treatment and then this worsens once on treatment. Once they are sitting in a clinic environment they are surrounded by similarly immunosuppressed patients, so their risk is heightened further.
Figures suggest myeloma cases are on the increase. Annually, the United Kingdom sees around 5,800 new cases of myeloma and incidence increased by a significant 32% between the periods of 1993-1995 and 2015-2017. These figures were reflected in the patient numbers at the Queen Alexandra Hospital where the study was carried out. Many patients receive bortezomib, which forms the backbone of four National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) approved regimens.
“Patients are living longer so in the early 2000s patients had a life expectancy of 2-3 years, whereas now patients live for around 5 years. Also, the scope and lines of treatments have increased a lot. Over 50% of patients are likely to have bortezomib at some point in their management,” explained Dr. De Abrew.
Bortezomib is given once or twice weekly as a subcutaneous injection, and this usually continues for approximately 6-8 months with four to six cycles. Administering the drug in hospital requires around a half-hour slot placing considerable burden on the hematology day unit resources, and this can adversely affect the patient experience with waiting times and the need for frequent hospital visits.