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NHS Use of Cancer Drug Is Ruled Out

Byline: By Nick Whitten Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England), December 20, 2006

Cancer patients have been dealt a devastating blow after medical chiefs ruled against the use of a life-extending drug.

The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) has dismissed an appeal to make mesothelioma drug Alimta available on the NHS.

NICE released its decision on Alimta just a week after it said it would not announce its position on the drug until the new year.

However, NICE'S appraisal committee agreed to take another look at the drug in the new year before issuing final guidance.

Chris Knighton founded the Mick Knighton Mesothelioma Research Fund following her husband's death from mesothelioma. She said: "I was disappointed when I first read the Nice decision. However I now believe there is a glimmer of hope.

"This decision means primary care trusts in the North East can continue to prescribe Alimta if they are still prepared to give it until the point when NICE says the drug is banned.

"However, this decision has once again delayed an ultimate decision. There are many families in the North East who have been waiting for over a year for NICE to make its mind up."

Alimta manufacturer Eli Lilly and the Royal College of Nursing put a range of concerns to NICE about its original decision to reject Alimta, including cost-effectiveness, the use of the drug in Scotland and patient choice.

It is understood the appraisal committee will meet in the new year to discuss the points and as a result guidance for the drug may be forthcoming.

Alimta is said to extend the lives of those suffering mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lung caused by exposure to asbestos.

Currently Alimta is available on Tyneside, thanks to help from the Chronicle.

Blaydon MP David Anderson said: "I am pleased NICE decided to release this decision before Christmas. However it is unfortunate NICE has chosen not to give guidance on Alimta at this stage.

"My hope is the appeal panel will make Alimta available on the NHS in the new year."

Ian McFall, head of asbestos litigation at solicitors Thompsons, said: "This decision is disappointing, however the battle is still not lost. I urge NICE to hold this review early in the new year and to make a decision fast."