Mesothelioma Drug Wins Victory in Australia

By January, or perhaps sooner, thousands of Australian mesothelioma victims should be able to obtain the drug Alimta for little or no cost.

According to an article in The Age, both major political parties promised to subsidize the drug Alimta for sufferers of the asbestos-related cancer after the government’s drug advisory board recommended that it be listed on the country’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

Some activists, however, were not totally pleased with the decision. Leigh Hubbard, executive officer of the Asbestos Diseases Society of Victoria, believes the subsidies should happen immediately.

“Mr. Hubbard said many sufferers had been forced to take out loans or find donations to pay for the drug,” notes the article. Alimta is extremely expensive, costing around $20,000 for an 18-week course of six treatments.

While Alimta does not offer a cure and only prolongs life for a handful of months, it gives mesothelioma patients “a soft landing”, says activist Barry Robson of the Asbestos Diseases Foundation of Australia. The drug is used for palliative purposes; to lessen the painful symptoms of the disease, which is a godsend for many patients.

The chairman of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee, Lloyd Sansom, said the committee had recommended that Alimta be subsidized for mesothelioma sufferers after manufacturer Eli Lilly dropped the price, changed the way it was packaged to reduce waste and cost, and provided more data about how it improved patients’ quality of life. The drug was already approved for use by other cancer sufferers.

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