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This story appeared in the Greenock Telegraph: Tuesday, 10th July, 2007

Cancer drug U-turn boost

by Eric Baxter

THOUSANDS of Inverclyde cancer victims could be helped by a U-turn over a drug that can ease pain and help them live longer.

The news will be welcomed by campaigners for people suffering from mesothelioma, a type of cancer which affects the lining of the lungs and is mainly linked to asbestos exposure.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE)
previously insisted the drug Alimta (pemetrexed disodium) should be used only in new or continuing clinical trials.

But manufacturers Eli Lilly appealed against the guidance - and now NICE says it can be used for advanced mesothelioma.

The condition is common in shipbuilding and heavy engineering areas, where people worked with asbestos.

Jim McAleese, of Port Glasgow, chairman of the Inverclyde branch of Clydeside Action on Asbestos (CAA), said: "Anything that can ease the pain is very welcome and gratefully received."

Greenock and Inverclyde MSP Duncan McNeil said this vindicated a campaign by MSPs for the drug to be provided.

He said: "This is great news for sufferers. It will give them a better quality of life."

About 4,000 people a year develop mesothelioma, mainly in areas like Clydeside.

Harry McCluskey, secretary of CAA, said: "It's important all those who suffer from mesothelioma should have access to the drug, which can extend their lives and alleviate symptoms. We have been actively campaigning for this, and we are delighted at the outcome."

CAA can be contacted for free and confidential advice and support on 0141 552 8852.

Dr Gillian Leng, NICE implementation director, said: "Our initial review of the evidence available suggested it was insufficient to demonstrate the drug was better than other, far less costly, medicines.

"However, a number of significant factors have become apparent, which, taken together, have enabled the independent appraisal committee to recommend pemetrexed disodium as a treatment option for the majority of people with the cancer."

The new guidance will be issued to the NHS in the next few months if there are no appeals against it.


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