New, Innovative Cancer Treatments Could Be Covered for Israelis in 2022

Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati
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A researcher at Tel Aviv University holding a 3D-printed cancerous growth, which enables efficient testing of new cancer drugs.
A researcher at Tel Aviv University holding a 3D-printed cancerous growth, which enables efficient testing of new cancer drugs.Credit: Avishag Shaar-Yashuv
Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati

Anti-cancer drugs are expected to be added to the state-funded “health basket” as Israel begins discussions on additions to the 2022 package.

The panel deciding what new medicines and treatments will put an emphasis on anti-cancer drugs, after they were given relatively lesser weight last year, and given the innovations in recent years in advanced oncology treatments – including biological and immunotherapy treatments.

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The committee is expected to approve in the next few years treatments that have proven their effectiveness in advanced stages of cancer, as well as being effective in earlier stages.

The panel, headed by Prof. Jonathan Halevy, will discuss how to allocate the additional 600 million shekels ($187 million) for drugs and medical technology to be subsidized next year – out of some 700 drugs submitted for addition to the health basket. The committee is supposed to complete its work and submit its recommendations to Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz by the end of the year.

The members of the committee include representatives of the health maintenance organizations, health and finance ministries and doctors. Among the public representatives on the committee are three former Knesset members, Haim Oron, Haim Amsalem and Revital Sweid. Prof. Neta Ziv from Tel Aviv University serves as the expert on medical ethics for the committee. For the first time, the committee has a representative for mental health issues: Dr. Efrat City Elifaz, the director of mental health services at Hillel Yaffe Medical Center.

The total cost of adding all the drugs submitted to the committee to the health basket is about 2 billion shekels ($640 million) a year, over three times the amount allocated.

The committee members are expected to debate this year – as in previous years – expanding subsidized mammography exams for all women. Today, women from 50 to 75 – and women over 40 who have first-degree relatives who had breast cancer – are entitled to such examinations once every two years.

The controversial Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm, which was approved for treatment by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in June, will also be presented for approval by the committee. The drug, whose effectiveness has been questioned, marks the first progress in years toward a treatment for Alzheimer’s – but its approval was very controversial and is still under examination.

In the area of psychiatry, the committee will discuss drugs for treating schizophrenia, severe depression and ADHD. A drug for treating narcolepsy is also on the list. Other drugs are for treating chronic kidney diseases, asthma, COPD, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, short bowel syndrome, migraines and a number of rare illnesses.

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