(photo credit: Courtesy)
Two MKs who are licensed physicians angrily protested at – and one walked out of
– the Knesset Labor, Social Affairs and Health Committee session on Monday after
it approved for second and third readings a bill that gives pharmacists powers
that currently belong only to physicians.
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The bill was initiated by the
Treasury to be part of the economic arrangements bill, and committee chairman
Haim Katz (Likud) had to bring it to a vote in his committee even though he
objected to the Finance Ministry’s rush to get it passed.
The bill would
allow registered pharmacists to renew prescriptions for drugs taken for chronic
illnesses up to nine months after a physician originally prescribed them. This
will reduce the number of times such patients have to visit their doctors to get
prescriptions, which could reduce health funds’ costs for doctors’ visits and is
thus favored by the Treasury.
But MK Arye Eldad of the National Union
furiously objected and walked out after saying that it endangered public health.
Pharmacists do not have access to their customers’ computerized medical files,
as doctors do, and could sell them medications that might cause them harm, he
Kadima MK Rachel Adatto, a gynecologist, medical administrator
and lawyer by training, was the sole vote against the bill in Eldad’s absence.
The committee approved the bill 5-1.
The prescriptions that could be
renewed by a pharmacist include those for drugs previously prescribed by a
physician who gave the patient instructions on taking them, and medications set
by the health minister and approved by the Knesset committee that do not require
a medical diagnosis.
In addition, the pharmacist would ask the customer
some questions about his or her medical conditions and the other drugs he or she
may also be taking. This would be done in a private section of the pharmacy
where the customer’s personal information is not overheard, the bill
The pharmacist, according to the bill, “must undergo suitable
training” for this in a medical or pharmacy school.
Eldad charged that
the Health Ministry was cooperating with the Treasury to “endanger patients’
health in a bill that will risk their health and safety and right to medical
privacy for suspect financial reasons.”
“The committee gave in to the
coalition’s dictates and is ready to pass a problematic and dangerous bill as
part of the arrangements law,” Eldad said. “The patients will pay the price as
pharmacists want to sell more and more medications without having updated
medical tests and without knowing what else the patient is taking, or
documenting in his medical file the fact that he is taking the
Adatto said the committee should never have approved the bill for
its final readings, as it distances the doctor from the patient and “exempts the
pharmacist from responsibility, leaving many question marks.”
MK added that the “attempts by the Treasury and Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov
Litzman to harm the Israel Medical Association is the driving force behind the
bill, rather than the good of the patient. It would have been proper for a bill
that involves life and death to be discussed in a more responsible way and not
in a rush.”
Ministry Director-General Dr.
Ronni Gamzu said the
ministry indeed supported the Treasury’s proposal.
Meanwhile, the same
committee approved for its second and third readings another bill that would
require all physicians, pharmacists, researchers, health funds and hospitals to
report on all gifts of money or goods they received that added up to at least
NIS 2,500 a year. If the gifts were not reported, the individual would be liable
for a fine of NIS 29,000 – twice that for an institution.
This piece of
legislation was approved unanimously, and will also be part of the economic
The reported gifts will be listed on the Health
Ministry’s website with details on the donor and recipient, the size of the gift
and its purpose; the data will also be sent to the Central Bureau of Statistics
The Health Ministry will also be required to report the
gifts it receives.
Committee chairman Katz refused to set a minimum fine
of NIS 226,000 for institutions that was suggested by the Treasury. The
committee rejected the proposal by Adatto and a colleague to require nurses to
report their gifts.