Israeli Drug Panel Approves Subsidies for Hepatitis C, Diabetes Treatment

But Parkinson’s drugs, free dental care for 12-14 year olds, fail to make the cut.

Alon Ron

The committee that decides which drugs and medical technologies will be state-subsidized in 2015 announced its decisions Tuesday, approving 73 new drugs and technologies that will benefit some 350,000 Israelis, at a total cost of 324 million shekels (about $87.7 million).

Among the newly subsidized medications and technologies, collectively known as the health basket, are new cancer drugs, immunizations, drugs to treat diabetes and AIDS, various tests, medications for vascular and lung diseases and infectious diseases.

One of the most important new drugs to make the cut this year is one to treat Hepatitis C, which will cost about a quarter of the entire budget: about 75 million shekels. However, the high cost of the medication will mean that only some patients will receive it, leaving the others without subsidized access to the optimal treatment.

Last year, cancer drugs accounted for an all-time high of 41 percent of the health basket’s budget. This year, their presence is less dramatic, with the addition of 13 new and costly drugs. Among these are Keytruda and Opdivo – two new means of treating advanced melanoma or melanoma that has metastasized – which cost about 420,000 shekels per patient per year.

Another cancer drug in the health basket this year is Zykadia, at a cost of 225,000 shekels per patient per year.

The committee also approved the inclusion of Impavido, for the treatment of the serious infectious disease leishmaniasis for both the type of the disease that appears on the skin as well as the type that strikes internal organs.

In the area of mental health, the drug Risperidone, used to treat people with dementia-related psychosis, is also now state-subsidized.

In the realm of newly subsidized technologies, the committee approved special computers for people with speech disorders.

A special test has also been included in the basket to diagnose Severe Combined Immunodeficiency, whose sufferers are commonly known as “bubble children” – relevant in some 200,000 births every year.

Some 150 severe Parkinson’s Disease patients were disappointed to find that the committee had not approved subsidizing a drug considered very efficient, Duodopa, which would have taken approximately 35 million shekels of the budget. The drug was taken off the list at the last minute and replaced by the drugs for Hepatitis C.

Dental treatment for children ages 12–14, which would have cost 36 million shekels and benefited some 140,000 children, was also left out this year.