Patients desperate for the addition of new lifesaving drugs to the 2008 basket of health services will have to wait at least until the middle of February before the public committee that recommends priorities prepares its list, The Jerusalem Post has learned. Thus tens of millions of shekels will go unspent, because the drugs will not be available for the full year. Patients who need medications that are not in the basket will have to purchase them on their own if they are able, or do without them until the new drugs are approved. The drugs, worth some NIS 450 million, should have been recommended by the committee and then approved by the Health Ministry and the cabinet early enough so they could reach patients at the start of January, but months of delay caused by arguments between the Finance and Health ministries over committee members and the amount of funds to be added resulted in its appointment only about two months ago. The committee will now meet twice weekly, once in Ramat Efal and the second time in Kibbutz Ma'aleh Hahamisha, outside Jerusalem, to accommodate those of the 16-member committee who live and work in the capital. Until now, they convened once a week at Ramat Efal. The meetings were for the first time opened to the press this year, but reporters are not allowed to quote or photograph any of the members. In previous years, the list of recommended drugs had not been ready on time, according to Health Minister Ya'acov Ben-Yizri's press adviser, Tal Harel. He said members of the committee, chaired by Prof. Menahem Fainaru, were appointed for one year only. "Maybe some will not want to do it again, so a committee is appointed every year," Harel said. But since the Treasury agreed to a NIS 450m. expansion of the basket through 2010, he said, "there is a possibility that the committee could begin to meet earlier this year, even during the summer, to make decisions for 2009." The Israel Medical Association has objected to the members appointed to the committee and whom they represent, claiming the committee now represents too narrow a scope of interests and is too financially motivated. The IMA has insisted that everything would be simplified if the government agreed to an automatic 2 percent growth in the basket every year. It is continuing to sponsor meetings of a self-appointed basket committee that has no real power but hopes to influence the Health Ministry-appointed committee.