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Lilly drug wins U.K. backing as cancer therapy

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Eli Lilly and Co.’s Alimta has received the preliminary backing of a United Kingdom agency as a maintenance treatment for patients with the most common form of lung cancer.

Alimta, or pemetrexed, would be the first drug to be made available for this type of therapy in the U.K. if the draft guidance issued Wednesday becomes final, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence said in an e-mailed statement. The agency, known as NICE, evaluates the cost-effectiveness of care for the state-run National Health Service.

The medicine is already recommended by NICE as an initial treatment for non-small cell lung cancer, which accounts for about 80 percent of all lung cancer cases. The main goals of maintenance treatment are to prolong remission after initial chemotherapy and increase the likelihood of receiving second-line chemotherapy, according to NICE.

“It is a new concept in lung cancer care,” Peter Littlejohns, the clinical and public health director at NICE, said in the statement.

Alimta, which can potentially extend patients’ lives by about 5.2 months, costs roughly $18,000 a year, according to NICE. Sales of the medicine rose 64 percent in the fourth quarter, to $523.6 million, Indianapolis-based Lilly said.

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