New Drug for Mesothelioma

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The FDA recently approved a new drug used to treat malignant pleural mesothelioma, a rare cancer usually associated with asbestos exposure. The drug is called Alimta, or pemetrexed disodium, and it's distributed by Eli Lilly and Company. Alimta is intended to be used along with cisplatin.

Only about 2,000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed each year in the U.S. Patients live, on average, nine to thirteen months after diagnosis.

In a randomized clinical trial, patients receiving Alimta along with cisplatin lived an average of 12 months after the trial began, compared with nine months for those on cisplatin alone.

Alimta must be supplemented with vitamin B-12 and folic acid to decrease the incidence and severity of adverse effects. Those effects include low white blood count, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, rash and diarrhea. Since the drug suppresses the bone marrow, patients are warned to report signs of infection, such as fever and chills.

Additional Information:

FDA Drug Information Page - Alimta (pemetrexed for injection).

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