NICE to review use of cancer drug after manufacturer appeal
NHS drugs advisors are to reconsider their decision to block a drug for people with asbestos-related cancer. The drug, Alimta, is used to treat mesothelioma, a type of cancer which most often affects the lining of the lungs and is mainly linked to asbestos exposure.
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) had decided Alimta (pemetrexed disodiumdisodium) should only be recommended for use in new or ongoing clinical trials and therefore blocked the widespread use of Alimta by the NHS in England and Wales. NICE, an independent organisation responsible for providing national guidance on promoting good health and preventing and treating ill health, concluded there was not enough evidence the drug was better than cheaper treatments. Critics of the decision, including specialist lung consultant, Nick Thatcher, argued that the decision to block the use of Alimta would result in the loss of a very useful treatment for many mesothelioma sufferers. There is no cure for the disease, but Alimta is used to reduce symptoms. It is believed that the drug costs about £8,000 for each patient.
Eli Lilly, manufacturers of the drug has appealed against NICE’s original ruling leading to a review of the decision. The appeal was based on a number of grounds but central to Eli Lilly’s claim is the argument that the Appraisal Committee had failed to consider the benefits of pemetrexed disodium by reference to the cost per life year gained and Eli Lilly argues the ruling is discriminatory. The appeal panel upheld the appeal and NICE announced the case will be reviewed by its appraisal committee. For the full appeal panel decision click here.
NICE official Dr Gillian Leng said: "The appeal mechanism is one of a series of checks and balances built into our appraisal process. It ensures that we issue the right guidance to the NHS, based on the correct interpretation of the evidence. Today's decision shows that these checks and balances work effectively." (BBC News)
Andrew Morgan, Partner in the Asbestos Claims Department of Field Fisher Waterhouse LLP, said “The original NICE decision blocked the widespread use of this drug for mesothelioma patients yet it is widely viewed as being the only clinically proven treatment for many mesothelioma sufferers. It is absurd that the NHS should be prevented from using Alimta when it is being used regularly in Europe and in the USA and where there are no cheaper nor more effective alternatives. The original NICE decision surprised and dismayed many sufferers and their medical advisors – in reviewing the application there is an opportunity for NICE to bring new hope to mesothelioma sufferers”
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