A final decision on an important chemotherapy drug, which could help scores of mesothelioma sufferers across the UK, may not be announced for another nine months.

The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (Nice) has said it has predicted that it will not be in a position to give guidance on the drug Alimta until September.

It means by the time Nice finally announces if it is going to make Alimta available on the NHS campaign groups will have been fighting the cause for almost two years.

Asbestos related lung cancer

Alimta is said to extend the lives of those suffering mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lung.

There is no cure for mesothelioma, caused by exposure to asbestos but Alimta is said to help make sufferers more comfortable during their last months.

The drug is currently only available in some parts of the country on the NHS, including the North East, Liverpool and London. Earlier this year Nice did not recommend Alimta for use across the NHS.

But following an appeal to Nice by Alimta manufacturers Eli Lilly Nice said it would take another look at the drug and its appraisal committee would look at the way cost per life gained was calculated.

A date for this meeting has not yet been laid down but a spokesperson for Nice said they have predicted that guidance will finally be issued in September.

It is understood that health trusts in the UK who are offering Alimta can continue to do so until a final decision is made by Nice.

Thompsons Solicitors, head of asbestos litigation Ian McFall said: "The very nature of mesothelioma means many sufferers cannot afford to wait until September to find out if this drug will be made available to them. I am disappointed that Nice has not had the foresight to fast track this decision so scores of people in the North East and across the UK are no longer left in limbo."

"I would urge Nice to find some way to bring this meeting forward so a decision can be made without further delay."

Blaydon MP David Anderson, who has been supporting the campaign said: "It is unfortunate Nice has not fast tracked this next step of the process so mesothelioma sufferers can finally be given an answer."

"This decision means yet another delay for dying mesothelioma patients and their families who have already had to wait for months for this appeal to go through."

Chris Knighton from the Mick Knighton Mesothelioma Research Fund added: "We were given hope when we heard the outcome of the Alimta appeal and we are now disappointed that there will be no final decision until September."

"It is good news that those currently receiving Alimta on the NHS will continue to do so but this does not help those people who live in areas where the drug is not yet available from their local NHS hospital."