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Mesothelioma drug Alimta made available in England

Last month the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, NICE, issued guidelines on the use of chemotherapy drug, Alimta (also called Pemetrexed Disodium) for certain cases of pleural malignant Mesothelioma. Pleural Mesothelioma is a terminal cancer of the lining of the lungs caused by exposure to asbestos.

Alimta relieves the symptoms of mesothelioma

14 February 2008

Last month the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, NICE, issued guidelines on the use of chemotherapy drug, Alimta (also called Pemetrexed Disodium) for certain cases of pleural malignant Mesothelioma. Pleural Mesothelioma is a terminal cancer of the lining of the lungs caused by exposure to asbestos. The typical life expectancy from diagnosis is presently only about 18 months. It is incurable, but Alimta, which when used in combination with another drug called Cisplatin, has been reported to significantly increase life expectancy and relieve symptoms commonly experienced by mesothelioma sufferers, such as shortness of breath, chest pain, cough and loss of appetite.

In 2004, Alimta was approved for use in the UK. However, NICE subsequently restricted its usage considering it too costly for widespread use. In July 2007, it revised its guidance and recommended use of the drug for Mesothelioma sufferers whose cancer was advanced and who were unable to undergo surgery or clinical trials. In November 2007 there was an appeal into the present guidance on the use of Alimta. NICE were required to consider the issue of whether this expensive drug, despite its effectiveness, should be funded from the NHS budget. While this decision was pending, mesothelioma sufferers in many parts of UK were denied treatment.

On 23rd January 2008 NICE dismissed the appeal and recommended use of the drug for those whose World Health Organisation performance status is either ‘0’ (i.e. they are able to carry out all normal activity without restriction) or ‘1’ (restricted in strenuous activity, but able to move around or carry out light work) who are considered to have advanced disease and where surgical resection (removal of part of the lung) is considered not appropriate.

This decision will come as a relief to many sufferers but is far too late for others. It is tragic that in the run-up to this decision, many Mesothelioma sufferers have been unable to benefit from the drug. Many fail to appreciate the intense suffering, which Mesothelioma sufferers endure. This is the reason why courts award high levels of compensation for the sufferers’ pain, suffering and loss of amenity alone. Alimta has the potential to relieve some of this suffering while extending the precious time that sufferers have to spend with their families.

Information was correct at time of publishing. See terms and conditions for further details.

Information was correct at time of publishing. See terms and conditions for further details.

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