PM seeks new hearing on cancer drug

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday asked the committee dealing with the health basket to reconvene urgently to reconsider the issue of including the drugs needed by those suffering from colon cancer. The chairman of the basket committee, Prof. Mordechai Shani, is abroad on private business but consulted with committee members by phone. However, the commitee can only set priorities for additional medications if the government allocates more money for the basket, and this it has not yet done. Legal experts suggest that if the colon cancer drugs are added to the basket, even though they had been given low priority in the list of drugs that were candidates for inclusion, patients with disorders that can be treated with other drugs excluded from the basket would sue the government in the High Court of Justice. The cabinet secretary issued a statement saying that his request to reconvene the committee was made after Olmert spoke with Health Minister Ya'acov Ben-Yizri, Pensioners Affairs Minister Rafi Eitan and Defense Minister Amir Peretz. Olmert said at the weekly cabinet meeting that while the government cannot set professional-clinical priorities for the committee and its expert members, "we are very sensitive to these patients' suffering. Their appeals are heart-rending, and we will act according to the recommendations of the specially appointed professional committee. I hope that these patients will stop their strike, which certainly does not make their health situation any better, and return home, and will receive the best possible treatment. I hope that we will be able to make decisions on these issues soon."