Securing mesothelioma compensation is crucial in fighting asbestos related lung cancer. Unfortunately, there is often very large costs attached to undergoing asbestosis treatments which use the latest advanced and very powerful drugs.

In one recent case, the insurers of the defendant company agreed to a ground-breaking settlement by directly paying a female victim suffering with asbestos-related lung cancer to receive the new drug treatment for an indefinite period of time. The decision raises the hope that future mesothelioma claims for the new drug treatment may also be settled in a similar manner.

An interim payment is vital in helping families

It can often take several years of thorough rigorous testing before a final official approval is authorised for a new drug to be used in specific cases. But it may also be that the NHS is then unable to offer the drug treatment due to the prohibitive costs. It is then left to the victim and their family to find and finance their own private care, which will administer courses of treatment using the new drug.

A court has the power to make an immediate “interim payment” usually reserved for compensation claims involving very serious conditions, including mesothelioma or asbestos-related lung cancer, which can take a longer period of time to fully settle. An interim payment is vital in helping families fund private asbestosis treatments which are not available on the NHS. But difficulties can arise if the cost of private treatment using one of the new powerful drugs is very large indeed.

NHS unable to provide the new drug treatment

In the present case – which is being called the”first-of-its-kind” – a female victim aged in her mid-70s was diagnosed with the deadly cancer more than forty years after only a brief period of exposure to asbestos. She had worked as a laboratory technician for a large UK based, multinational company for three weeks after leaving school when the exposure to asbestos occurred. It is well known that a period of up to 50 years or more may elapse before the first asbestosis symptoms may start to emerge.

When the diagnosis was confirmed, the NHS was unable to provide the new drug treatment and the victim resorted to paying for the early part of the treatment herself. However, at an interim court hearing, she was able to secure a five-figure repayment. Now the insurer on behalf of the company employer will pay for all future treatments of the new ‘life saving’ drug – the first time an insurer has agreed to directly pay for treatment indefinitely.

40 per cent reduction in loss of life

It was only in May 2017, after long trials, that the new immunotherapy drug – Keytruda (Pembrolizumab) – was approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) to be used mainly for the treatment of melanoma and some lung cancers. Keytruda has been referred to as a “game changer” in immunotherapy due to its ability to interfere with signals from tumour cells which prevents the body’s own defence from attacking the growing cancer. Importantly, it also allows a patient’s immune system to not harm surrounding healthy cells.

The trials had showed that Keytruda can reduce the risk of disease progression by 50 per cent compared to chemotherapy. The drug also improved overall survival, with a 40 per cent reduction in loss of life compared to chemotherapy. NICE is also recommending use of the new drug within the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF) as an option for the spread of untreated non-small-cell lung cancer in adults.

Clinicians still trying to improve life-expectancy chances

As a result of the treatment, the female victim says her tumours have since reduced in size, and also believes the may be cured of the fatal disease.

In the UK, less than one per cent of all cancers are diagnosed as mesothelioma but the disease still accounts for more than 2,500 deaths every year. Despite a fall in mortality rates for many other types of cancers, such as cervical, testicular, thyroid and malignant melanomas, clinicians are still trying to improve life-expectancy chances for mesothelioma, which remain on average, between 4 to 12 months.