Drug U-Turn Fear
Byline: By Nick Whitten Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England), October 5, 2006
Asbestos victims may be forced to pay up
Dying cancer victims could soon be made to pay thousands of pounds for a life-extending treatment.
Currently the Tyneside-developed drug Alimta is available free of charge in the North East to ease the symptoms of those suffering from the asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma.
However, Alimta was not approved for general use by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) earlier this year as it is more expensive than other chemotherapy agents.
And now the Northern Cancer Network is expected to review its decision in line with NICE guidelines this month.
This would mean dying cancer victims would have to pay up to pounds 24,000 to receive the treatment privately.
Alimta can extend the lives of mesothelioma sufferers, who often develop the disease after being exposed to asbestos during their work.
Christine Knighton set up the Mick Knighton Mesothelioma Research Fund in memory of her late husband.
The aim was to raise money to help fund research into ways of easing suffering for victims of the disease, which took Mr Knighton's life when he was 60 in 2001.
Christine, 59, from Wallsend, said: "I regularly attend the North East Mesothelioma Self-Help Group, which sees sufferers, carers and those bereaved come together to cope with the illness.
"I know from that what relief Alimta can bring. It is important that people should be given the opportunity to have the treatment. It should be people's right.
"We now have people who are considering the prospect of having to sell their home to pay for Alimta. That is a great concern."
Blaydon MP Dave Anderson has met with representatives of Alimta manufacturer Ely Lilly.
He said: "The dispute here seems to be about the cost of Alimta but NICE is not taking into account the costs of alternative treatments, in that they involve an overnight stay in hospital costing a minimum of pounds 800.
"In any case, there is a moral argument for Alimta whatever the cost.
"These men and women are suffering devastating disease because they were illegally exposed to an element that has been outlawed for decades.
"Alimta is available to sufferers across Europe, North America and Australia.
"Alimta has even allowed mesothelioma sufferers to return to work."