Rituxan wins FDA nod for leukemia use

Roche's blockbuster cancer med Rituxan just got a chance to grow even more. The FDA approved the drug for marketing as a first-line chronic lymphocytic leukemia treatment, and also for CLL patients who haven't responded to other drugs.

Until now, Rituxan was approved for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma patients and for those with rheumatoid arthritis. In 2009 it racked up sales of some $5.6 billion. That figure could grow significantly with the new approval, because CLL is the most common form of leukemia in adults. About 16,000 new cases are diagnosed every year in the U.S., the FDA said in a statement.

It will have rivals for the CLL market, however; Rituxan is the third drug for that disease to get approval since 2008. So the Roche med will be competing against GlaxoSmithKline and Genmab's Arzerra treatment and Cephalon's Treanda drug. 

- get the release from FDA
- see the Reuters story