Cancer patients re-launch strike

Protesters demand inclusion of additional cancer drugs in health basket.

cancer protest 1 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
cancer protest 1
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Colon cancer patients were set to begin a hunger strike outside the Knesset on Sunday to demand the government subsidize the cancer-fighting drug Erbitux. The government agreed to increase the 2006 health budget by NIS 350 million after the cancer patients held a 16-day hunger strike in May. The Health Ministry also included another cancer drug the protesters had demanded, Avastin, in the basket of subsidized medicines, but Erbitux was added on an emergency basis only for patients with advanced and localized head and neck cancer. Although Health Minister Ya'acov Ben-Yizri had previously promised that Erbitux would also be included, the committee in charge of the issue left the life-extending drug outside the basket. That decision was made while the war in Lebanon was still going on, but the patients said they had postponed their protest until the war was over, Yediot Aharonot reported. In response to the committee's decision, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said it was inappropriate "that one person should decide, based on this protest or another, which drugs should be included."