MKs call for extra NIS 450m. for basket of medicines

Charges of "a shocking culture of lies and plots by gov't officials" raise questions over drug allocations.

medicine 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
medicine 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Knesset State Control Committee on Tuesday called on the Treasury and the Health Ministry to fulfill a promise made in the plenum to add NIS 450 million to the health basket for fiscal 2008. The call came at the end of a discussion on allegations raised in an investigative report on Channel 2 that the drug companies, the health clinics and the Health Ministry had "silently" conspired to inflate the price of medicines included in the basket and allow the clinics to use the profit for other purposes. After hearing senior officials representing health clinics and the government, the committee concluded that "the pricing and budgeting of the basket of medicines is very problematic." According to committee chairman Zevulun Orlev (NU-NRP), "there are well-founded suspicions of a shocking culture of lies and plots by government officials that endanger lives." Ravi Sobel, who is in charge of the budgetary department in the Treasury, denied the allegation. He said the committee which determined allocations and prices for the basket of medicines used the best methods available. Prof. Avi Yisraeli, the director-general of the Health Ministry and head of the committee to determine the basket for three years, said the mechanism for updating the basket was the best in the world. The assessments were made on the basis of the cost of the medicine and the number of Israelis who used it, he said. But an oncologist, Dr. Bella Kaufman, charged that the committee that determined the annual list of medicines often exaggerated the number of people who used a certain medicine. For example, the committee estimated the number of women suffering from breast cancer who needed a certain drug at 2,300, when the actual number was about 600. Translated into monetary terms, the difference between the forecast and the reality amounted to NIS 40-50 million, she said. Orlev said if the committee made accurate assessments, it could include other life-saving medicines in the basket. The committee called on the public to provide more examples of overblown prices or demand estimates and called on State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss to investigate the matter and publish a special report on it.