Cancer Research UK calls for reconsideration of Alimta decision

In collaboration with the Press Association

Cancer Research UK has contacted the health secretary to ask that Nice, the UK drugs regulator, reconsider its decision not to make the lung cancer drug Alimta available on the NHS for the treatment of mesothelioma - a cancer of the lining of the lung.

The announcement follows Monday's decision by the body not to make another drug, Tarceva, available for the treatment of metastatic or advanced non-small cell lung cancer.

While recognising the regulator's rationale for ruling out the drug for metastatic lung cancer, the charity said that Alimta had proven value in treating mesothelomia.

"It would seem that the cost of adopting Alimta for locally advanced lung cancer far outweighs the benefits to patients," said head of Cancer Research UK, Professor Alex Markham.

"But Cancer Research UK remains adamant that the drug should be available for those with mesothelioma where it is the only treatment available and can significantly improve patients' quality of life."

Alimta is the only recognised treatment for malignant pleural mesothelioma and is widely used throughout the world. It has recently been approved for use in Scotland.

The majority of cases of the disease are caused by work-related asbestos exposure, and it is thought that the number of cases will fall from 2010 due to the ban on asbestos.

"It would seem perverse to deny patients access to Alimta over this brief period," added Professor Markham.

"It is very unlikely that any effective alternative therapy for mesothelioma will become available before the epidemic declines."