August 5, 2009 / 11:03 PM / 11 years ago

UK backs funding for Lilly's Alimta in lung cancer

* Drug recommended for subset of lung cancer patients

* NICE decision reverses negative view in April

LONDON, Aug 6 (Reuters) - Britain’s healthcare cost-effectiveness watchdog has changed its mind on Eli Lilly’s (LLY.N) drug Alimta and now plans to recommend its use within the state health service as a treatment for lung cancer.

The draft guidance from National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) represents a victory for the U.S. drugmaker, since the UK organisation’s preliminary view in April was not to back the treatment.

Although Britain is only a minor market for Lilly and other big drugmakers, NICE decisions are closely followed by governments and healthcare insurers worldwide.

NICE said on Thursday it was recommending Alimta in combination with the older chemotherapy drug cisplatin for first-line treatment of locally advanced or metastatic non-small-cell lung cancer, where tumours were an adenocarcinoma or large-cell carcinoma.

The watchdog has a reputation for rejecting some cancer drugs as too expensive, given the limited budget of the National Health Service (NHS). That has prompted some drugmakers to offer special “patient access schemes” to bring down the cost, though no such programme was offered for Alimta.

NICE expects to issue final guidance to the NHS in September 2009.

Alimta, also known as pemetrexed, is already recommended as a treatment asbestos-related cancer, or malignant pleural mesothelioma, in patients who are unsuited to surgery. (Reporting by Ben Hirschler; editing by Karen Foster)

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