Lawyers appalled and perplexed by NICE refusal to approve cancer drug, Alimta

Mesothelioma patients will die prematurely because of NICE decision against Alimta

30.03.2007

The law firm, Irwin Mitchell, who fought successfully for the use of the drug Herceptin for breast cancer sufferers have said that they are appalled and perplexed at the decision by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) not to recommend the use of the drug Alimta to treat cancer sufferers in the Appraisal Committee Document (ACD) issued today by NICE to the stakeholders for a consultation period that ends on the 8 May.

Alimta is a drug which can prolong the life of mesothelioma victims, as well as alleviating the symptoms of the asbestos related cancer.

Mesothelioma is a cancer of the mesothelium, the thin membrane that lines the chest and abdomen. It is one of the cruellest forms of cancer as it is incurable and invariably fatal. It has a very long incubation period, generally between 20 and 30 years.

All people who may have been in contact with asbestos dust are at an increased risk of developing mesothelioma, not just those who worked in heavy industry, shipbuilding and construction. It is estimated that there are 2000 deaths a year in the UK from this form of cancer and this is set to rise. It is predicted that in the future, over 65,000 people will develop it. Thats one person dying of mesothelioma every 4 hours.

Leading mesothelioma lawyer appalled at Alimta decision

Adrian Budgen, of law firm Irwin Mitchell said: I am appalled at the decision made by NICE today as the drug would allow a large number of mesothelioma sufferers the chance to live longer and reduce their painful symptoms. I am also perplexed because, given the clear evidence of what the drug can do to improve the quality of life of sufferers, it seems wholly unjustified not to recommend the drug for use on mesothelioma patients. In most other European countries, including Scotland, it is the treatment of choice.

If NICE do not licence Alimta, they could be denying hundreds of NHS patients the chance to have treatment which could give them up to an extra year of life.

Professor Nick Thatcher, a specialist lung cancer consultant at the Christie Hospital NHS Trust and South Manchester University Trust Hospital said: Yet again NICE have applied their particular costing approach of one size fits all and as a result NHS patients will die prematurely from pleural mesothelioma."

Louise Dowds mother died in January 2007. It is believed she contracted the disease when exposed to asbestos through the work clothes of her father and brother both of whom worked at Turner and Newalls asbestos factory, at Trafford Park, in Manchester.

Primary Care Trust halting use of Alimta

Oncologist Dr Paul Taylor at Wythenshawe Hospital prescribed Ethel Hallam the drug Alimta in September 2006. It was whilst Mrs Hallam was being prepared for her treatment, and was at the hospital, that the Primary Care Trust rang up and told the doctors to stop the treatment as they were not prepared to fund it.

Ms Dowd said: I have unfortunately seen a few relatives die from various cancers, but I have never seen anything as painful as what my mother had to suffer. Anything that can prolong the life of a loved one, and alleviate the horrendous symptoms they have to suffer must be provided to cancer sufferers who have been prescribed it by a qualified physician.

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