A NIS 35 million private fund recently established by philanthropist Sami Ofer and his family will try to supply Herceptin, a breast cancer drug, to most of the 600 women a year who need it to reduce the risk of a recurrence of the tumor.
The fund will also provide a drug for colon cancer and for leukemia; none of the three drugs is included in the basket of health services (at health fund expense) for these disease indications.
Herceptin has been proven very effective in preventing a recurrence of breast cancer in women who have been successfully treated for a tumor with surgery, radiation and/or chemotherapy and have a HER+ test results.
But the drug, which retail costs NIS 150,000 a year per woman, has been included in the basket only for women with severe breast cancer that has metastasized to other parts of the body. Thus, many families have been forced to sell off cars and homes to afford the drug.
The One in Nine organization, which fights breast cancer, yesterday congratulated the Ofer fund for its generosity. It said that the money will save many of the 600 women who need Herceptin for prevention.
The fund will set up a medical committee to evaluate the cases and determine who is entitled to receive the drug during the coming year.
One in Nine Director Nurit Tolnai said she hoped the State of Israel, though the Health and Finance Ministries, would take on the long-term financing of Herceptin as a preventive drug in breast cancer patients.
The Ofer fund is negotiating with drug companies and importers to receive Herceptin at a reduced price so that it can be given to more women who need and can benefit from it. One in Nine set up a campaign in early September that lobbied for inclusion of Herceptin the basket of health services.
They met with Health Minister Dan Naveh two days after preparing a petition, "but he told us he couldn't do anything to promote their aim," the organization said.
The Health Ministry commented that it is the Treasury that recommends to the government how much money to add to the basket of services, and that the amount would be expanded enough to include Herceptin for prevention of breast cancer recurrence.