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Article from The Northwest Evening Mail

Life extending drug may come to town

ASBESTOS disease sufferers may soon be offered a life extending drug currently not available in Cumbria.

MPs have said they will do all they can to make the mesothelioma chemotherapy drug Alimta available throughout the UK.

Alimta is said to extend the lives of those suffering the cancer of the lining of the lung.

But it is only currently available in some parts of the country on the NHS. They include the North East, Liverpool and London but not Barrow, which is a mesothelioma blackspot because of previous industrial practices.

Earlier this year the National Institute of Clinical Excellence refused to recommend Alimta for use across the NHS.

But following an appeal to Nice by Alimta manufacturer Eli Lilly, Nice said it would take another look at the drug and its appraisal committee would look at the way cost per life gained was calculated.

Nice is not expected to return further guidance on the drug until September this year.

Last week Wallsend widow, Chris Knighton, founder of the Mick Knighton Mesothelioma Research Fund, gained support from a group of MPs in her campaign to get Nice approval for Alimta.

Mrs Knighton said she was given guarantees by MPs attending that, where possible, the matter would be pursued within parliament.

She said: “The meeting went very well and there was a lot of interest from MPs, health professionals and the pharmaceutical companies.

“I feel I was able to provide them with a better understanding about the issues faced by those with mesothelioma and also about the benefits of Alimta.

“The MPs told me that the matter would not be left there and they would pursue other avenues within parliament to see what can be done to ensure Alimta is given guidance.”

Ian McFall, head of asbestos policy at Thompsons Solicitors, which have campaigned for Alimta’s approval since 2005, added: “It is good news that our MPs have been able to hear first hand about the plight of mesothelioma sufferers.

“I hope they will now be able to influence decision makers so that Alimta is approved for licence on the NHS throughout the UK.”

Alimta is the only licensed treatment available for mesothelioma and it produces significant benefits in around half of those receiving treatment.

Patients who respond live up to 12 months longer and have fewer symptoms. More than 2,000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma annually in the UK, of whom around 700 are candidates for the treatment.

The chemotherapy costs an average of £8,000 for a full course of six treatments, but most patients receive just four costing £5,500.



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