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Wednesday 23rd May 2018

NICE u-turn on asbestos drug

9th July 2007

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has made a sharp turnaround regarding a proposal to stop the use of a drug which treats asbestos-related cancer.


NICE had issued guidance that Alimta (pemetrexed disodium) should only be used in clinical trials. The drug can aid in prolonging life for people with the cancer.

Following an appeal by the drug's manufacturers, Eli Lilly, revised draft guidance has been released to say it can be employed to treat advanced forms of the cancer. It is advised for use in patients who can perform everyday functions, but who are in the later stages of the disease.

Around 4,000 people a year are diagnosed with mesothelioma. The cancer attacks the lungs and is connected with asbestos exposure.

Dr Mick Peake, a consultant physician and vice chairman of Mesothelioma UK, said the revised guidance was "absolutely excellent news...pemetrexed is one of the very few treatments for which there is good evidence of benefit."

NICE stated that the cost of the drug could be made more effective if it was used in for less time and at a reduced dose.

Dr Gillian Leng, NICE implementation director and executive lead for the guidance, said: "a number of significant factors have become apparent, which...enabled the independent appraisal committee to recommend pemetrexed disodium as a treatment option for the majority of people with the cancer."

Pending any further appeals, NICE are expected to issue their final guidance to the health service by September.

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