PEOPLE across the UK affected by asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma are once again in limbo after two appeals have been lodged against a decision by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) to make chemotherapy drug Alimta available on the NHS.
Guidance for the drug was finally issued in July this year after a two-year campaign backed by founder of the Mick Knighton Mesothelioma Research Fund, Chris Knighton and asbestos compensation claims specialists Thompsons Solicitors.
But now the guidance has been put on hold as NICE waits to hear two appeals against their original decision.
Nice cannot reveal who the appellants are and what grounds their appeal is based on until the day of the hearing, which has yet to be announced.
There is no cure for mesothelioma, which is caused by exposure to asbestos. More than 2,000 people every year are diagnosed with the disease, which often leaves sufferers with a life expectancy of just months.
Specialists estimate around 700 people a year could benefit from Alimta, which is said to extend the lives of some sufferers and has proven to improve quality of life.
Earlier this year NICE ruled against the use of Alimta across the NHS. But following an appeal to NICE by manufacturers Eli Lilly it agreed to carry out a review of the evidence.
In July NICE announced the drug would be made available to a certain category of mesothelioma patients.
The decision was greeted by delight for families across the UK. Previously the drug
was only available on the NHS in some parts of the country including the North East, Scotland, Liverpool and London.
Patients living elsewhere in the UK were faced with having to pay up to £8,000 per cycle to obtain the treatment.
The appeal means full guidance for the drug cannot be announced until later this year. Hospitals are free to prescribe the drug but are not under any obligation and it is expected that the current postcode lottery will continue until full guidance is given.
Chris Knighton, founder of the Mick Knighton Mesothelioma Research Fund said: “This is astounding news. We were at the point where mesothelioma patients would have a right to receive this important drug on the NHS and now it feels like we are back to square one.
“Hundreds of mesothelioma patients in the North East and beyond will be very disappointed to hear this news, which once again puts them in limbo. This just shows that there is no peace for mesothelioma sufferers who face one struggle after another.”
Ian McFall, head of asbestos policy at Thompsons Solicitors said: “The last thing people suffering from this terrible illness need is more uncertainty. They are going through hell as it is and should be entitled to know what treatment is available to them. NICE should clarify the position without further delay.”
Asbestos disease diagnosis? Talk to us for advice and support on how to secure compensation.
If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, we can support you with advice on how to make a claim.
The process will be explained in plain English and with no obligation – our priority is to provide you with the best, expert advice on whether you have a valid case for compensation, and to signpost you to further sources of support.
There are strict time limits applied to making a claim – usually three years from the date of diagnosis. It doesn’t matter if the exposure to asbestos took place – as it often does – decades ago, the three year time limit applies to the date of knowledge of diagnosis or date of death.
For further information, visit our How to Make A Compensation Claim page.