A campaign to gain access to a cancer drug for scores of mesothelioma sufferers in the UK has been taken to the Secretary of State for Health, Patricia Hewitt.

Ms Hewitt has been asked to look into the issue after MP, David Anderson raised the matter in parliament.

Alimta can help increase the quality of life of mesothelioma victims and can sometimes extend their life expectancy.  Many of the victims were exposed to asbestos during their working life.

The drug has recently been withdrawn from use in the NHS by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).

Alimta was previously available on NHS prescription

Following a fight, led by the Evening Chronicle and supported by Thompsons Solicitors, Alimta was made available on the NHS in the North East, but will be withdrawn following the NICE review earlier this year.

Now Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Department of Constitutional Affairs, Bridget Prentice MP, has called on Ms Hewitt to look into the issue.

She has asked her to explain the government’s position on the availability of the drug.

In a letter to Ms Hewitt, Mrs Prentice said: "On Tuesday, whilst taking oral questions on the floor of the House, David Anderson raised with me issues concerning the use of the drug Alimta and in particular asking me to raise with you his request that the NICE lift the limits on the use of the drug".

"I do have a lot of sympathy with the work being done by many of our colleagues in this area and would be grateful if you would arrange for a reply to be sent to David letting him know what the position is."

The news comes after Mr Anderson brought the campaign up in parliament in July.

During a oral answers session he said: "Will the Minister ask the Secretary of State for Health to request that the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence lift the limits on the use of the drug Alimta, so that people can have not only proper financial compensation but their lives extended?"

Alimta is not a cure to mesothelioma, but it can reduce symptoms and improve quality of life for some patients.

A study being funded by the North East based Mick Knighton Mesothelioma Research Fund is looking at ways to identify which patients are more likely to benefit from Alimta.

Head of asbestos litigation at Thompsons Solicitors, Ian McFall said: "It is encouraging that this issue is now before the Secretary of State for Health. I hope Ms Hewitt looks at the matter closely and comes to a decision, which will help hundreds of mesothelioma sufferers."

"I would urge Ms Hewitt to use her authority to allow doctors to prescribe Alimta on the NHS to any mesothelioma patients who they believe could benefit from this treatment".

Dave Anderson MP can be contacted through his constituency office.

The Evening Chronicle have also published this story.  To read it visit "MP's to take up battle for drug" .