The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (Nice) has dismissed an appeal on mesothelioma drug Alimta.

However, Nice’s appraisal committee has agreed to take another look at the drug in the New Year before final guidance is given on its use.

Nice released its decision on Alimta on Tuesday 19 December 2006, just a week after it said it would not announce its position on the drug until the New Year.

Nice’s Appeals Panel heard evidence from Alimta manufacturer Eli Lilly and the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) in October.

The organisations had a list of concerns about Nice’s original decision including cost effectiveness, the use of the drug in Scotland and patient choice.

The panel dismissed 11 out of 14 points raised by Eli Lilly and all points raised by the RCN.

However Nice’s Appraisal Committee is set to have another look at the drug after upholding appeals by Eli Lilly on the way cost per life gained was calculated, the number of committee members at the original hearing and the failure by Nice to disclose evidence by a clinical specialist.

It is understood the Appraisal Committee will meet in the New Year to discuss the points and as a result guidance for the drug may be forthcoming.

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.

Alimta is currently available in some parts of the country on the NHS, including the North East. Earlier this year NICE did not recommend Alimta for use on the NHS and health trusts using the drug were set to stop using it.

It is understood that health trusts in the UK can continue to use Alimta until a final decision is made by Nice on the drug.

Blaydon MP David Anderson said: "I am pleased Nice decided to release this decision on Alimta before Christmas."

"However it is unfortunate Nice has chosen not to give guidance on Alimta at this stage. This decision means yet another delay for dying mesothelioma patients who have already had to wait for months for this appeal to go through."

"My hope is the appeal panel will make Alimta available on the NHS once it has reviewed the cost of life gain in the New Year. Hopefully they will schedule this review to take place as soon as possible to help relieve the suffering of many asbestos victims in the North East and beyond."

Chris Knighton added: "I was disappointed when I first read the Nice decision however I now believe there is a glimmer of hope for mesothelioma victims. This decision means Primary Care Trusts in the North East can continue to prescribe Alimta if they are still prepared to give it until the point when Nice says the drug is banned."

"However, this decision has once again delayed an ultimate decision on the drug. There are many families in the North East who have been waiting for over a year for Nice to make its mind up."

Thompsons Solicitors, head of asbestos litigation Ian McFall said: "This decision is disappointing, however the battle is still not lost. There is now a lot of work to do to ensure when Nice reconsiders the cost of life gain that it finally gives Alimta the guidance hundreds of mesothelioma patients and their families have been waiting for."

"I urge Nice to hold this review early in the New Year and to make a decision as fast as possible."