The effect of imatinib on mortality from chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) has not been assessed even though there have been a lot of reports regarding the improvement it has caused on survival outcomes of CML patients. A reduction in mortality is not implied just due to a survival benefit in clinical trials. The researchers collected fundamental, statistical data for Japan and information from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program of the National Cancer Institute for the U.S. to estimate the age-standardized mortality rate of CML patients in both of these countries and to assess the effect of imatinib on the public health.

The data used covered the time frame from 1993-2008, during which the deaths of 26,888 patients in 9 different registries in the U.S. and 64,203 patients in Japan were reported owing to CML. To assess the importance of patterns in mortality, we utilized joinpoint regression analysis.

The availability of imatinib showed a noteworthy fall in the estimated age-standardized mortality rates of both countries. The annual percentage changes (95% CI) in the U.S were as follows: −11.6% (−13.1% to −10.1%) for women and −12.3% (−14.8% to −9.7%) for men. These were −15.6% (−18.8% to −12.2%) for women and −20.8% (−36.2% to −1.6%) in Japan. There is a correlation between the period of change in the mortality pattern and the period during which imatinib became available in both of these countries. The mortality rate of CML was nearly 30% of what it was back in 1993.

This is one example of how the emergence of a single new medication can change the picture of a single disease, CML. These outcomes might support the further development of medications depending on the idea of molecular targeting.