Israel to Subsidize Drugs for Cancer and Blood Diseases, Not Parkinson’s

Ido Efrati
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Ido Efrati

A health committee has released the list of state-subsidized medicines and treatments for 2016, saying it would subsidize drugs for cancer and blood diseases, but not Parkinson’s.

The committee added 83 medicines and technologies at a cost of 300 million shekels ($76 million) to the so-called health basket, intended for some 110,000 patients.

New medicines in the subsidized package include drugs for cancer, lung, heart, vascular and skin diseases, hepatitis B, diabetes, infectious diseases and attention deficit disorders.

The subsidized drugs and procedures will be available by next week, after the committee submitted the list to the Health Ministry on Thursday. It must then be approved by the cabinet.

In the past two months the committee discussed some 700 requests for additional medications, procedures and technologies valued at some 2.5 billion shekels. But the committee’s budget is only 300 million shekels.

The high cost of life-prolonging drugs is a global problem. In recent years cancer drugs have comprised 30 percent to 42 percent of the additional budget to the health basket.

This year too, some 20 oncological medicines at a cost of some 110 million shekels have been added to the basket. These include Oxaliplatin and Irinotecan for colorectal cancer, Opdivo for advanced lung and kidney cancer, Extandi for advanced prostate cancer, and treatments for breast cancer.

The committee added drugs for treating lung cancer at a cost of 40 million shekels, including Tagrisso (almost 200,000 shekels a year per patient, intended for some 90 patients), Opdivo (160,000 per patient a year for some 150 patients) and a CT scan for prostate and pancreatic cancer.

But the committee did not include the drugs Keytruda and Opdivo for lung cancer.

The basket provides a large variety of life-prolonging medicines, but it is doubtful whether the public health system can afford the high cost of cancer medicine for long. The prices demanded by drug companies, reaching hundreds of thousands of shekels annually per patient, have been criticized in Israel and around the world.

Some 56 million shekels have been allocated this year for medicine for hepatitis C. This completes the move begun last year by introducing an expensive ground-breaking treatment that destroys the virus.

A few groups of patients, including candidates for liver transplants, were left without the subsidized treatment last year. This year the budget includes groups of patients suffering from the disease’s four genotypes.

A considerable part of the additional basket budget – some 50 million shekels – has been earmarked for drugs for heart and vascular diseases, with an emphasis on anticoagulant drugs like Pradaxa and Eliquis.

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