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Israel to inject NIS 500 m ($143.7 m) into health system for new drug, medical treatments

In a last-minute deal, the Health and Finance ministries on Thursday agreed to a NIS 500 million ($143.7 million) budget for new drugs and medical treatments that would have been unavailable if not approved by an end-of-year deadline.

The sum will go into the so-called subsidized “drug basket” which pays for life-saving emerging medicines and technologies that are provided to patients.

A political stalemate has left Israel without a permanent government for over a year, despite two rounds of elections. A third election has been set for March 2.

As a result, no state budget has been approved and by law, ministries must revert to the previous budget of 2019. Without the ad hoc agreement, the drug basket would not have got additional funds it needed for fresh treatments.

The Finance Ministry would not comment on where the money would come from but a ministry source told the Walla news website that it would be taken from other programs the Health Ministry was funding, without impacting the services it is already giving.

Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman said the development was “important news for the health system’s patients.”

“We have struggled to adequately budget the drug basket, under difficult conditions, during the transition government, given that the agreement with the Treasury on the basket budget ended last year and a recap for the budget was required,” Litzman said in a statement.

“The third round of elections presents us with challenges in managing the country’s budget,” Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon said in a statement. “I am glad that we found the necessary solution in order that there not be any impact to the basket or to citizens.”

Every year, a Health Ministry committee reviews requests by patients, doctors, and pharmaceutical companies who ask that hundreds of new treatments are included in the basket. Assessments are made based on the cost and efficacy of the treatments.

Professor Zeev Rothstein, chair of the review committee, told the Walla news website that the agreed figure was short of the NIS 700 million that the committee wanted.

“If the basket is not increased, live-saving technologies will remain out of it,” he warned. “We implore the decision-makers to increase the basket.”

Israel’s annual health budget is around NIS 54 billion ($15.5 billion).