Alimta blocked by NICE30th June 2006
A drug for the asbestos-linked cancer mesothelioma has been blocked for widespread use by the NHS in England and Wales.
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) decided Alimta should only be recommended for use in new or ongoing clinical trials.
NICE concluded there was not enough evidence the drug was better than cheaper treatments. However, critics said some patients would be left worse off.
Professor Nick Thatcher, specialist lung consultant at the Christie Hospital NHS Trust in Manchester, said the decision will remove a very useful treatment option for patients with this resistant cancer.
Mesothelioma is a type of cancer affecting the mesothelial cells, which cover the outer surface of most of the body's internal organs. It most often affects the lining of the lungs and about nine out of 10 cases are linked to exposure to asbestos.
Although the use of asbestos was banned in the UK in 1999, it is predicted that 65,000 people will develop mesothelioma as a result of previous exposure.
There is no cure for the disease, but Alimta, known technically as pemetrexed disodium, is used to reduce symptoms. The drug costs about £8,000 for each patient.
Eli Lilly, which manufactures the drug, said it will appeal against the decision. It said it will encourage the use of other, unlicensed treatments which have not been assessed for use.
It comes as Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer announced changes to compensation laws which will mean victims of asbestos-related cancer will receive full compensation.
The announcement follows the House of Lords ruling in Barker v Corus in May this year that prevented thousands of mesothelioma victims from receiving a full payout.
The decision reduced the amount of compensation to which they were entitled when employers and their insurers were unavailable to be sued, as well as making the whole process of claiming compensation longer and more costly.
In response The Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer and John Hutton, the Work and Pensions Secretary, will amend the Compensation Bill - currently going through Parliament - to reverse the ruling. The amendment will mean that negligent employers will be jointly and severally liable and that claimants will be able to recover full compensation from any one employer.
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