Cancer group asks Sharon to help

The Israel Cancer Association has pleaded with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to ensure the allocation of NIS 350 million to expand the basket of health services with new lifesaving drugs, including medicines for cancer patients. The plea comes despite the Knesset's scheduled dispersal on Tuesday and the lack of an approved 2006 state budget. ICA President Prof. Eliezer Robinson, a senior oncologist, said that while Sharon answered a previous letter saying the matter is "being dealt with," he was worried that a solution would come too late to save the lives of many patients. The Health Ministry's public committee that makes recommendations on expanding the basket has not yet convened even though it is customary for it to announce its annual list by the end of December following weeks of deliberation. There are 120,000 cancer patients in the country, with 23,500 new cases diagnosed annually, said Robinson. "We ask that the Treasury set aside NIS 350 million - the same figure as last year - to expand the basket," he said. "This will save the lives of thousands of patients who don't have the strength to fight for their right to recovery."