NHS to offer mesothelioma patients alternative immunotherapy during COVID pandemic | Fieldfisher
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NHS to offer mesothelioma patients alternative immunotherapy during COVID pandemic

Dushal Mehta
In extremely positive news for people living with mesothelioma, NHS England has announced its response to the current coronavirus pandemic by offering mesothelioma patients immunotherapy treatment both to mitigate the risk of attending hospital for treatments such as chemotherapy and to reduce the effect on their immune system.

Mesothelioma patients will be given nivolumab monotherapy instead of second line chemotherapy to reduce the risk of immunosuppression. Immunotherapy can also be administered at home, reducing the risk of exposure to the virus in hospitals.

Immunotherapy for mesothelioma, which previously has not been funded by the NHS, has had positive results in treating patients and is considered less aggressive compared to traditional treatments such as radiotherapy and chemo. Before this announcement, clients had to access private funding for immunotherapy, often included when quantifying final settlement.

A panel of medical experts on the Chemotherapy Clinical Reference Group suggested the move, which was endorsed by NHS England and NHS Improvement, to offer greater flexibility in managing cancer during the pandemic and reducing a patient's risk of contracting COVID-19.

The funding for this interim treatment will continue until the end of the 2020/2021 financial year, with patients beginning immunotherapy during the pandemic allowed to continue the treatment until their clinician considers it appropriate to stop. Mesothelioma was added to the list of cancers to be treated with immunotherapy on August 3rd.

Partner Dushal Mehta, an expert in mesothelioma cases, said: "This is some welcome news for mesothelioma patients who have had a particularly difficult time during lockdown and the pandemic.

"Immunotherapy treatment is extremely expensive and without NICE approval, mesothelioma patients with civil claims can recover the cost of this treatment from those responsible for their condition and diagnosis.

"Unfortunately there are some patients who will not be able to bring a successful civil claim. This is therefore very welcome news for those victims who can access life-extending treatment via the NHS for the short-term."

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