Alimta is a medication for cancer created by Eli Lilly and Company.   The drug interferes with the growth of cancer cells and slows the growth, therefore reducing the spread in the body. It is commonly used to treat mesothelioma, an aggressive lung cancer associated with exposure to asbestos. Alimta is also used to treat non-small cell lung cancer in conjunction with other cancer medications.

Administering the Drug

Alimta is usually taken every three weeks, as an injection through a needle placed into a vein. The process, done in a clinic or hospital, is short, usually taking no more than ten minutes.  Throughout the treatment a patient will need to supplement with vitamin B-12 to protect their stomach, blood cells and bone marrow from side effects of the drug. It is important to start taking the supplements a week or so before treatment and then for three weeks after treatment ends.

Side Effects

Alimta can lower blood cells that help the body fight infections and sicknesses. This makes it easier for a patient taking Alimta to bleed from an injury or get sick easily.  That being said, it is important for someone being treated with Alimta to avoid people who have cold, the flu or anything else that could be contagious. Like all cancer fighting drugs, Alimta has certain side effects. These side effects include skin rash, numbness or tingling, depression, sore throat, muscle pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation and loss of appetite.  Also, some people may be allergic to Alimta. Signs of an allergic reaction to Alimta include hives, difficulty breathing, and swelling of the face, lips, tongue or throat.

Approved for Mesothelioma

Alimta is the first and only drug specifically approved by the FDA to treat mesothelioma.  It works by blocking enzymes necessary for cancer cells to grow. Although it does not cure the cancer, it has been used to prolong life and improve lung function of mesothelioma patients. Clinical trials show the median survival time for those taking a combination of Cisplatin and Alimta was 12.1 months as compared to 9.3 months for those taking only Cisplatin. Reference: