NIS 200,000 per year drug Herceptin helps prevent recurrences of the cancer.
By JUDY SIEGEL-ITZKOVICH
Breast cancer survivors can breathe easier now that the Health Ministry has included the expensive drug Herceptin in the basket of health services for use in preventing a recurrence of breast cancer in women.
The medication will be approved by the cabinet on Sunday and will be available starting July 1.
Before the ministry's Thursday announcement, Herceptin was only covered by the health funds for treating metastatic breast cancer and not to prevent its return.
The ministry said it had waited until now to add Herceptin to the basket because only recently had it been approved by European regulators for preventing the recurrence of breast cancer in certain patients who have already undergone surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy for their tumors.
Prior to its inclusion in the basket, the drug had cost patients upwards of NIS 200,000 a year. In the last few months, it was provided to suitable patients by the Sami Ofer fund on a voluntary basis.
Health Minister Ya'acov Ben-Yizri said that the decision is "welcome news that will save the lives of many women who unfortunately contracted breast cancer. I hope that this is not the only piece of good news that I, as health minister, will bring to the public."
"Now Israel's basket can be considered at the forefront along with other Western countries," said Maccabi Health Services director-general Prof. Yehoshua Shemer, a former ministry director-general.
Israel Cancer Association director-general Miri Ziv also applauded the ministry for its decision. "This is a drug that many clinical studies have shown can significantly reduce the return of breast cancer. The findings have been the most impressive news related to breast cancer in 30 years."
Every year, 4,000 women (and a handful of men) are diagnosed with breast cancer, and 900 die of it. However, the survival rate is improving thanks to early detection through mammography and improved treatments.
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