Cancer sufferers lobby MPs at Westminster for access to clinically effective Alimta drug for Mesothelioma

Alimta Mesothelioma drug

17.10.2006

Sufferers of the asbestos-related cancer Mesothelioma are gathering today for a lobby of parliament between 2pm and 4pm. They will meet MPs at Portcullis House to raise awareness of the postcode lottery currently in existence for the drug Alimta, treatment deemed effective but too expensive by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) to be given on the NHS.

Mesothelioma is a cancer of the Mesothelium, the thin membrane that lines the chest and abdomen. One of the cruellest forms of Cancer, Mesothelioma is incurable and invariably fatal and has an incubation period of anywhere between 20 and 50 years.

It is estimated that there are approximately 2000 deaths from Mesothelioma a year currently in the UK. This number is set to rise as, despite the use of asbestos being banned in the UK in 1999, predictions suggest that 65,000 people will develop Mesothelioma as a result of previous exposure.

Alimta drug can reduce symptoms of Mesothelioma

There is no cure for the disease, but Alimta, known technically as pemetrexed disodium, is used to reduce symptoms. The drug is estimated to cost about £7,000 for each patient, a sum which NICE considered above their cost criteria.

Alimta is readily available in most EC countries including France, Germany, and Ireland as well as further abroad in Australia and the US. It is also available through some Primary Care Trusts in the UK including Greater Manchester & Cheshire, Newcastle, East End of London (St. Bartholomews hospital). However it is denied in other parts of the country where the NICE guidance is given as the reason for denying the drug despite prescription by clinician.

Despite the support of significant clinical evidence showing its effectiveness, and the support of leading oncologists, NICE guidelines published in June 2006 stated that Alimta should only be recommended for use in new or ongoing clinical trials, and that it should not be available to those people eligible for the drug, on the NHS.

Professor Nick Thatcher, the specialist lung consultant at the Christie Hospital NHS Trust in Manchester, said of the decision "It is contrary to the scientific evidence and is purely based on the value NICE place on a person's life."

Alimta lawyer voices concern

Adrian Budgen Head of the Industrial Diseases group at law firm Irwin Mitchell said The ramifications of a decision by NICE to deny the drug Alimta on cost grounds are enormous. The message this sends to those stakeholders in cancer research could lead to money being pulled out of the research and development for a cure, or treatment, for Cancer.

Companies and their investors will not spend millions of pounds only for their drugs to sit on a shelf gathering dust, whilst people die of the disease, as bureaucrats count the cost before lives.

An appeal will be heard on October 27th 2006 against the NICE guidelines. Todays lobby of parliament will look to inform opinion and persuade more support from members of parliament towards allowing the drug to be made available, allowing clinicians to use their own judgement on what is best for their patients.

How can we help you? If you have been denied treatment for Mesothelioma or any illness or disease, our solicitors can help you with a claim. Fill in our online claims form for free advice.