Over half Israel's 2019 drug basket budget goes to cancer

Drugs  photo: Shutterstock
Drugs photo: Shutterstock

The drugs and medical technologies added to the National List of Reimbursed Drugs will cost NIS 460 million.

The members of the committee for expanding the National List of Reimbursed Drugs have published the list of drugs and medical technologies to be added to the National List of Reimbursed Drugs for 2019 at a cost of NIS 460 million. The drugs will be used by some 70,000 patients, while the approved tests will be used for a very large number of people. The use of drugs costing an additional NIS 40 million will be gradually introduced and charged to the 2020 budget. Cancer treatments costing NIS 255 million, more than half of projected additional cost, will be added to the list in 2019, in line with the trend in recent years, with the exception of 2018.

In recent months, the committee members, headed by Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center CEO and former Ministry of Health director general Prof. Ronni Gamzu, initially selected a list of 770 drugs and technologies at a cost of over NIS 3 billion, of which only 107 drugs were selected. 220 drugs costing over NIS 2 billion reached the final selection stage.

One of the drugs and technology for cancer treatment added to the list was an innovative CAR-T genetic engineering treatment of large B-cell lymph node cancer and recurrent ALL leukemia patients aged 3-25. In CAR-T technology, immune systems cells are collected from patients, headed by T-cells capable of killing cancer cells. The removed cells are treated genetically to enhance a special receptor for identifying cancer cells in the body and then injected into the patient and activated in order to attack the cancer cells.

New drugs for treatment of leukemia, multiple myeloma lymphoma (of the plasma cells found in bone marrow), liver cancer, melanoma, breast cancer, prostate cancer, kidney and bladder cancer, lung cancer, and cervical cancer (including advanced biological and bio-immunotherapy drugs activating the immune system to attack cancer cells) were also added to the National List of Reimbursed Drugs.

The immunotherapy drugs added to the list include Opdivo for late-stage melanoma. The purpose of the immunotherapy treatment is to prevent the disease from recurring; there are 150 patients each year with a high risk of recurrence. Other drugs approved for treatment of late-stage melanoma include Tafinlar and Mekinist. All three of these drugs are rated as extremely important by the Israel Society for Clinical Oncology. Adding the three drugs to the list will cost NIS 33 million annually. Opdivo was also added to the list for treatment of secondary liver cancer at an annual cost of NIS 16 million; about 900 patients suffer from this disease annually. This is the first time that the immunotherapy treatment in the National List of Reimbursed Drugs is being expanded to non-melanoma cancer. Among other additions to the list are Kyprolis, Ninlaro, and Empliciti for treatment of myeloma (bone marrow cancer) and Revlimid for myeloma patients before or after bone marrow transplants.

Other cancer drugs added to the list included Kisqali Verzenio, a hormonal treatment for late-stage breast cancer and Abiraterone for secondary prostate cancer sensitive to hormones. Tests for early detection of cervical cancer were extended to women aged 30-35 (the test is currently administered only in the 35-55 age bracket), and special food for children under 13 with cancer was approved. Rejected drugs included Abraxane for treatment of secondary pancreatic cancer, which can lengthen a patient's life by several months, because studies did not indicate that it was sufficiently effective.

Drugs and technologies approved for other diseases included a drug for treatment of 34 children with rickets; wigs for patients suffering from an autoimmune disease causing baldness; new blood thinners (Pradaxa, Eliquis, and Xalerto) - a lifesaving treatment that prevents stroke and blood clots for patients at high risk of stroke - a target group of some 13,000 people, at a cost of NIS 37 million; Ilaris for treatment of familial Mediterranean fever (FMF) - a hereditary inflammatory disease that affects about 200 patients; Dupixent for medium-to-severe Atopic dermatitis (asthma of the skin) following previous treatment; and Biktarvy and Juluca for treatment of AIDS carriers. Drugs for treatment of rare diseases were also approved, including Cholbam for treatment of a rare genetic disease - one patient at an annual cost of NIS 1.067 million.

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on January 3, 2019

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2019

Drugs  photo: Shutterstock
Drugs photo: Shutterstock
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