Skip to Content

What is the difference between Opdivo and Keytruda?

Medically reviewed by N. France, BPharm. Last updated on Nov 17, 2020.

Official Answer


Opdivo (nivolumab) and Keytruda (pembrolizumab) are two immunotherapy drugs used to treat a number of different types of cancer. They are monoclonal antibodies that have similar efficacy and safety profiles and are both programmed death receptor-1 (PD1) inhibitors, which were first approved in the US in 2014.

Opdivo is marketed by Bristol Myers Squibb and Keytruda is marketed by Merck & Co.

The key differences between Opdivo and Keytruda are seen in the dosing frequency, the drugs they are used in combination with and the types of cancer they have been approved for use in.

Opdivo vs Keytruda: Dosing frequency

Opdivo is administered via a 30-60 min intravenous (IV) infusion every 2-4 or 6 weeks, whereas Keytruda is administered slightly less frequently. Keytruda is administered via a 30 min IV infusion every 3-6 weeks.

Opdivo vs Keytruda: Combination therapy

When used in combination with other drugs, Opdivo is used alongside:

  • Ipilimumab (Yervoy)
  • Platimum-doublet chemotherapy

When used in combination with other drugs, Keytruda is used alongside:

  • Pemetrexed (Alimta) and platinum chemotherapy
  • Carboplatin (Paraplatin) and either paclitaxel or paclitaxel protein-bound (Abraxane)
  • Platinum and flurouracil
  • Axitinib (Inlyta)
  • Lenvatinib (Lenvima)
  • Chemotherapy

Opdivo vs Keytruda: Uses

Keytruda has been approved for use in a number of cancer types that Opdivo is not approved for use in including:

  • As a single-agent, first-line treatment for stage III or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) expressing programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1). Both drugs are also approved for second-line therapy of NSCLC and in combination with other agents.
  • Primary mediastinal large B-cell lymphoma
  • Microsatellite instability-high or mismatch repair deficient solid tumors
  • Gastric cancer
  • Cervical cancer
  • Merkel cell carcinoma
  • Endometrial carcinoma
  • Tumor mutational burden-high cancer
  • Squamous cell carcinoma
  • Triple-negative breast cancer

Related Medical Questions

Drug Information

Related Support Groups