The Health Basket Committee recommended the addition of 141 new treatments and technologies worth NIS 500 million ($145m.) to the state-subsidized health basket on Friday, bringing welcome news to an estimated 210,000 patients and disappointment for others.Additions to the health basket recommended by the committee, after four months of deliberations, include a range of treatments for cancer patients, a nasal spray for treatment-resistant depression and an HIV prevention treatment.“This is welcome news and real hope for patients, and an important achievement for the health system,” said Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman. “It wasn’t easy for us all this year amid the political uncertainty, which also caused budget uncertainty. The 2020 drug basket includes dramatic achievements for the sick, and I am proud of the results achieved by the committee.”
Annual additions to the basket – encompassing the entire range of medical services, drugs, equipment and devices that insured, permanent residents of Israel have a right to receive – are limited by a budget allocated by the Finance Ministry.Due to the ongoing political stalemate, formal discussions regarding the contents of the state-subsidized health basket commenced in September without a defined budget. The final budget of NIS 500m. was only decided upon in December.While approximately 900 treatments and technologies valued at over NIS 3.5 billion were submitted for consideration by the committee, only 141 items made the final list subject to cabinet approval.
Among the recommended additions are advanced treatments for diabetics, including flash glucose monitoring for children with type 1 diabetes, vaccinations to prevent measles among adults, additional vaccine strains to prevent cervical cancer, breakthrough gene therapy to prevent blindness, and universal neonatal screening for Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
Additional treatments subject to cabinet approval include the wearable Optune cap to treat brain tumors, drugs for PrEP to protect adults at risk of HIV infection, a breakthrough nasal spray for treatment-resistant depression, and medicines for rare diseases, including hereditary angioedema, muscular dystrophy and Cushing’s syndrome.
“The conclusion of the 2020 basket committee’s work is similar to instrumental delivery after a high-risk pregnancy,” said committee chairman and Hadassah director-general Prof. Zeev Rotstein.
“In an exceptional effort by all the teams that joined together – the Health Ministry, the Treasury, the health funds, members of the public, doctors and nurses – [who] formed the committee this year, a pretty successful baby was born who, despite the fetal distress, emerged containing everything that it could carry, given the severe limitations surrounding its birth.”
The Israel AIDS Task Force, together with the LGBTQ Medical Society and the Israeli AIDS Medical Society, praised the “historic” decision to include PrEP drugs in the health basket.
“Making this preventive treatment accessible by public funding, which we’ve been fighting many years now for, is expected to significantly reduce the number of newly diagnosed people among groups at risk,” said the groups in a joint statement.
“This is an important step toward full eradication of new HIV infections in Israel, and getting to the ultimate goal that we [strive for]: the end of the epidemic within 10 years,” they said. “In order to achieve this goal, the government is requested to allocate additional resources for adequate implementation of this treatment, which encompasses training, education of the public and encouragement of more regular HIV testing.”
The Israel Cancer Association also welcomed the announcement, especially the inclusion of screening tests for BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations in Ashkenazi women aged 30 to 65.
“However, the joy is incomplete, as there are many drugs left out of the basket due to a lack of budget,” the association said in a statement. “We expect the government, formed immediately after the elections, to provide a fixed, annual increase of approximately 2% of the value of the health basket. This is a necessary step designed to enable a solution and long-term planning under the National Health Insurance Law, and to prevent distress among patients.”