High Court Judge Salim Joubran had strong words yesterday for lawmakers who excluded cancer drugs from the 2005 list of subsidized medicines provided by HMOs in Israel.
"How can the members of the health basket committee sleep well at night?" Joubran commented aloud during a hearing for a petition brought by cancer victims against the decision.
Joubran's comments were directed at the state representation, which was defending the decision. Justice Elyakim Rubinstein, however, took the opposite stance.
"Judges also don't sleep well before handing down a ruling, but when you are called upon to make a decision, you have to make a decision," he said. "We told the members of the committee to make a decision, and they were forced to choose."
The petition was brought by seven prostate cancer victims who are demanding that the list of subsidized drugs include Taxotere, and four other people who have colon cancer, who want to add the medicine Erbitux to the list.
The petitioners cited a Jewish law that states that a person must offer help to one whose life is in immediate danger. They claim that no person has the authority to decide who will live and who will die.
Justices Eliezer Rivlin, Rubinstein and Joubran said they would hand down their ruling as soon as possible.
Erbitux costs a patient NIS 30,000 per month. According to the petitioners, not including it in the list of subsidized medicines is tantamount to a death sentence for colon cancer victims.
The medicine is expensive because it is a new drug and protected by a patent that prevents competing companies from producing and marketing a generic version in the coming years.
Colon cancer is the second most common illness in Israel, with 3,000 new patients diagnosed every year. Once the cancer spreads, it is almost always fatal.
The petitioners claim that Erbitux prevents the growth of the cancer, even in patients who had not responded to other chemotherapy drugs.