House Committee rejects cancer drugs petition

Sneh slams opposition leaders for using the cancer patients to gain popularity.

coloncancerstrikech1298 (photo credit: Channel 1)
(photo credit: Channel 1)
The Knesset House Committee rejected on Tuesday the petition of Likud MK Danny Naveh to include the cancer-fighting drugs Erbitx and Avastin in the 2006 health basket, by 14 votes to 11. MK Ephraim Sneh (Kadima) accused Naveh and other opposition leaders of using the cancer patients to gain popularity. "I hope that your conscience will soon be clear", Sneh exclaimed. Tensions flared in the meeting prior to the vote with insults flying between the two MKs. Sneh called Naveh "immoral" and queried why Naveh didn't included the medicines when when he was health minister two-and-a-half years ago. The two MKs were unable to maintain control and chairperson Ruhama Avraham was forced to call a 30 minute break. President Moshe Katsav had urged the government and the Knesset on Monday to speed up their decisions to expand the health basket to include those life-prolonging medications for cancer patients that are currently not in the basket. Rafi Eitan suggested that private organizations could shoulder the cost of the drugs until the state found a way to allocate funds. Eitan's proposal was blasted by Labor and Likud MKs, who called it a Band-Aid on a much larger problem. Sharoni added that moving the discussion into the committee would only stall the process further. Although Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had asked the health basket committee to meet again to discuss the possibility of including the two drugs in the basket, committee chairman Mordechai Shani said there was no point in meeting again unless the Treasury allocated more money to add the drugs. The committee would not change its priority list to substitute Erbitux and Avastin for lifesaving drugs already added to the basket, Shani said. Meanwhile, Sharoni's committee decided to reject the section of the Arrangements Bill prepared by the Treasury that would allow licensed pharmacists to issue prescriptions for drugs without a doctor's involvement. Sharoni said that such a change would have major implications on medical care and could not be included in the bill without serious discussion. The Health Ministry, said the Knesset committee chairman, could present the idea for discussion separately. Judy Siegel contributed to this report.