Panel okays 77 medical technologies for basket

Some patients will be happy; those needing over 500 not accepted will be disappointed; cost will be NIS 300m.

Medicine pills drugs prescription 311 (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Medicine pills drugs prescription 311
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
The basket of medical technologies will be expanded by 77 new medications and medical devices in 2012 at a cost to the Treasury of NIS 300 million, out of 600 technologies proposed for inclusion that would have cost NIS 2 billion.
The basket is comprised of medications and other technologies that are provided by the health funds to relevant patients in exchange for only small copayments.
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Prof. Rafael Beyar, the director- general of Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center who heads the public committee that recommends new medical technologies, told The Jerusalem Post in an interview on Thursday that he was very pleased with the new addition of life-saving, life-extending and lifeimproving technologies to the basket as they would make a difference to tens of thousands of patients.
Patients whose medications were not included in the basket will have to pay for them out of pocket or do without them.
Although the list has to be approved by the National Health Council and then by the government, these are only formal steps, though they could add weeks to the process.
But Beyar said that he urges the four public health funds to voluntarily provide the new technologies to relevant patients already from Sunday, as the committee recommendations are always approved without changes.
Beyar, a leading interventional cardiologist, said he preferred that instead of expanding by only NIS 300 million, the basket be updated automatically so the Health Ministry would not have to plead with the Treasury for more funds. Beyar added that this was his third term as chairman of the committee and that he would not continue next year, as it is a very time-consuming and demanding voluntary post.
“It was very difficult this time, as some excellent technologies – some of them breakthroughs in treatment – were presented, but we could not approve most of them,” he said.
Among those approved were medications treating melanoma (the most serious type of skin cancer), hepatitis B and C, dangerous blood clotting, multiple sclerosis, type 1 and type 2 diabetes for some indications, AIDS/HIV and stroke. Some new drugs are meant for treating orphan diseases, illnesses that affect only a very small number of patients. The expansion of indications for Pradaxa, an advanced drug that can prevent strokes, was regarded as an important addition.
A computerized device that continually monitors blood sugar for children and pregnant women with type 1 diabetes was one of the new pieces of medical equipment added to the list.
Beyar said he was very pleased with the members of the committee, which includes representatives of the insurers, Treasury, Health Ministry and the public, as well as physicians and a rabbi.
This year, the decisionmaking process was low-key, with little publicity and no significant demonstrations.
Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman said that the announcement of the list was “good news for the health system and patients.”
He praised Beyar and other members for their hard work and for their reaching decisions without passing the deadline at the end of December. Litzman added that the ministry will try to find special funding for adding some vaccines for the population.
Representatives of patients’ organizations said they were “happy for those who will have medications they need but sorry for the tens of thousands of people needing drugs that were highly rated by the committee but were not included in the 2012 basket.
They will either live in suffering [without them] or pay for medications out of pocket.”
The organizations said that at least this year, all of the NIS 300 million went for medical technologies and not services that the government should pay for. But some complained that some drugs were added to the basket without extra costs because they replaced outdated drugs, thus they should have been added during the year and not forced patients to wait for them.
Physicians for Human Rights – Israel commented that the gap between patients’ needs and the amount allocated by the Treasury to expand the basket is growing. Whether a patient gets an important drug should not depend on his financial ability, the organization insisted.
The Israel AIDS Task Force said it was happy that three relevant drugs were added, as they will ease and extend the life of HIV carriers and AIDS patients, saving money for the health system by preventing the need for more complex treatments and long hospitalizations.