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NICE Reverses Cancer Drug Ruling

William Gallahue

William Gallahue

July 9, 2007

In a stunning reversal, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence will now recommend Alimta be given to advanced mesothelioma patients.

Mesothelioma is a rare lung cancer caused by the inhalation of asbestos fibers. The majority of the 4,000 annually diagnosed in the UK are exposed to asbestos from their job. Treatments for the disease are limited because it is often discovered in its advanced stages.

In 2006 the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence recommended that Alimta (pemetrexed disodium) not be administered to patients with advanced mesothelioma. They advised it should only be used in new or ongoing clinical trials because of the drug’s cost effectiveness.

The decision was met with disappointment from patient care groups and manufacturer Eli Lilly which appealed the decision.

The FDA first approved the chemotherapy drug as a treatment for mesothelioma in Feb. 2004 and as a treatment for non-small cell lung cancer four months later. In clinical trials the drug has been shown to extend and enhance the quality of life for patients suffering malignant mesothelioma.

England has been tepid to adopting the drug citing possible undue costs on the National Health Service. The cost for one 21-day cycle of treatment generally runs around $4,000 USD ($2000₤) and many patients who suffer from mesothelioma are terminal cases.

Assuming no further appeals, the final draft of the NICE report is due sometime in September.

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