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The National Health Council on Wednesday approved the recommendations of the public committee for expansion of the basket of health services to update the basket by NIS 466 million - three times the amount that the Treasury had allocated for this purpose in the 2006 budget.
But since the cabinet will not meet this Sunday, it will be at least 11 more days until a decision can be made on how much the basket will be expanded and on approval of the new drugs and medical technologies that will be added, and the additional medical conditions for which older drugs will be provided.
The public committee and the health council were clearly buoyed by the election results, which showed a stronger commitment from would-be coalition partners to improved health services, especially with the unexpectedly strong showing of the Gil Pensioners' Party, who will demand them.
Health Minister Ya'acov Edri, who filled the post only a few months ago with the resignation of his predecessor Dan Naveh, said that he wanted to continue the fight for drugs that would save, extend and improve the quality of life.
The drugs and technologies recommended by the public committee were listed according to their priority, generic and commercial names, the conditions for which they can be prescribed at public cost and the estimated number of patients who need them.
The highest on the list were Crestor and Ezetrol (for reducing blood cholesterol); antagonists Ocsaar and Atacand (for hypertension and heart failure in patients who are unable to take ACE inhibitors); slow-release insulins such as Lantus, Levemir, Humalog, Apidra and Novorapid (for diabetics, eliminating previous restrictions); Eloxatin for stage III colorectal cancer and Xeloda (for adjuvant treatment for stage III colorectal cancer); Herceptin as a preventive treatment for the return of breast cancer in some women; Hepsera (for hepatitis B); Lexiva (for HIV carriers), Mabthera (for primary follicular non-Hodgkin's lymphoma); and Zyprexa and Seroquel (for second-line treatment of bipolar mental illness). Some of the drugs are meant for as many as 24,000 patients, while others will go to just a few hundred who need them each year.
When the government approves them, Health Ministry Director-General Avi Yisrael will issue orders to the health funds to provide them immediately to qualified patients, but there will be no retroactive coverage, even though the expanded basket should have been approved before January 1.
Israel Medical Association chairman Dr. Yoram Blachar, a member of the public committee, said that the committee included "the most vital drugs for saving and extending life and preventing suffering. A failure to include them would not allow the required level of medical care." He added that there remained a long list of other important drugs outside the basket, such as Avastin for colon cancer.