By Mary-Jo McKenna, a personal injury solicitor at Irwin Mitchell

The announcement that Nivolumab in combination with Ipilimumab has been approved by the Scottish Medicines Consortium as first-line immunotherapy treatment for patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma (licensed for Scotland) has been hailed as good news.

The Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC’s) role is to advise on the clinical benefit and cost-effectiveness of all new medicines for NHS Scotland.

The assessment of Ipilimumab/Nivolumab combination immunotherapy by the Scottish Medicines Consortium came after a study showed an improvement in survival rates for a group of mesothelioma patients given Ipilimumab and Nivolumab (‘Ipi/Nivo’) immunotherapy drugs when compared with standard chemotherapy.

The importance of this decision

Areas of Scotland currently have the highest incidence of mesothelioma in the world due to the historic use of asbestos in heavy industry and building. Malignant pleural mesothelioma is a highly aggressive cancer known to be caused by occupational or environmental exposure to asbestos.

The decision is hugely important as this is the first combination drug therapy in over 10 years that has shown a marked improvement in survival over standard chemotherapy alone.  

Improvement in survival rates

An improvement in survival rates means mesothelioma patients can spend more time with their family and friends, and also maintain independence and participate in social events. Some patients may even be able to continue a normal life and focus on wellbeing and post cancer health.

The diagnosis of mesothelioma comes as a massive shock to patients, their families and friends. The approval of treatment that will improve survival rates will give hope to patients facing this terrible diagnosis.

The Scottish Mesothelioma Network has hailed this as very positive news stating: "We are now in a great position to ensure equitable access to first-line Ipi/Nivo for all suitable mesothelioma patients in Scotland.”

Patient group submissions made by Mesothelioma UK, June Hancock Mesothelioma Research Fund, and Action on Asbestos were acknowledged in the decision-making process by the Scottish Medicines Consortium.  

Find out more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in helping people and their families following a diagnosis of mesothelioma, or other asbestos-related diseases, at our dedicated asbestos disease section.