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Prof. Dov Lichtenberg, dean of Tel Aviv University's Sackler Faculty of Medicine, urged the government on Sunday to increase its expenditures on medications, saying that the basket of health services could be expanded significantly without causing undue problems for the economy.
Speaking at a conference on-campus symposium on "Novel Strategies in Cancer Therapy" in honor of two physicians who shared the $1 million Dan David Foundation Prize for the Future Dimension, Lichtenberg said that although there had to be limits on health spending, the maximum was far from being reached.
The two physicians who received the Dan David Prize (in addition to five who shared $2 million for the Past and Present Time Dimensions) were Prof. John Mendelsohn, president of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, and Prof. Joseph Schlessinger of Yale University Medical School.
Mendelsohn is the co-developer of Erbitux, one of the two colon cancer drugs that cost over NIS 20,000 per patient per month and are not covered by the health funds but which are being demanded by cancer patients holding a hunger strike, outside the Knesset since last week.
Mendelsohn told The Jerusalem Post in an interview (the full interview will be published on Sunday's Health Page) that he was sorry his drug, a monoclonal antibody that has been proven to significantly extend the life of some colon cancer patients, was so expensive.
"I have no control over that," said Mendelsohn. "The University of California at San Diego, where we did the development work, licensed the drug to a company that invested over $500 million in it, and they want a financial return. Costs of drug development are incredibly high, and the majority of experimental drugs get nowhere, so the company wants to recover the costs.
It is tragic when patients who have cancer can't get the drug; this is true around the world, including the US where there are 40 or 50 million people without health insurance, in Israel, where there is national health insurance and even more in the developing world."
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