Israel has added 88 new treatments to the national "basket" of drugs and health technologies which are provided free by the state, a move which is expected to benefit at least 300,000 people.

The annual cost to the government of the treatments which have become newly-available from January 1 2013 is put at around NIS 300 million, raising the total value of the basket to some NIS7.3 billion.

The main focus of the new additions is preventive medicines, with a number of diagnostic and genetic tests being made available, and also Merck & Co's cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil. Among the drug treatments newly-included in the basket are: - AstraZeneca's advanced medullary thyroid cancer drug Caprelsa (vadetanib); - Ipsen's Decapeptyl (triptorelin), a synthetic form of the hormone gonaderelin; - Genentech's Erivedge (vismodegib) for advanced basal cell carcinoma; - Fanapt (iloeridone), a schizophrenia drug which is licensed by Novartis from Titan Pharmaceuticals; - Janssen's antipsychotic Risperdal (risperidone); - Reckitt Benckiser's Suboxone (buprenorphine and naloxone), for the maintenance treatment of opioid dependence; and - Novo Nordisk's diabetes treatment Victoza (liraglutide).

The daily newspaper Haaretz comments that these latest additions to the basket indicate that the government's advisory committee has returned to approving products which affect large patient groups. Last year, it had approved 77 expensive new medications which benefited more than 30,000 patients, while the year before it had approved 52 affecting 230,000 patients.

However, another daily paper, Maariv, points out that while just 88 products adding an extra NIS300 million had been newly included in the basket, 680 requests had been received over the year for the inclusion of new products, which would have added NIS2 billion.

Meantime, the Health Ministry has published its latest annual review of Israel's health maintenance organisations (HMOs), which shows that the organisations ended fiscal year 2011 with a deficit of NIS1,259 million, sharply up on the NIS203 million deficit reported for 2010.

“The increase is explained in part by failure to receive support funding for 2011 due to delays in signing the stabilisation agreements for 2011-2013,” says the report.

Expenditures on hospitalisation rose 9% to account for about 41.7% of total 2011 spending of the HMOs' community segment, up from 41.5% in 2010, while spending on medicines and medical equipment increased about 8% to account for about 20.9% of the HMOs' total community segment spending, a percentage which has remained unchanged from 2010.

The cost to the HMOs of the medical services basket rose 7.7% to about NIS32,669 million in fiscal year 2011, from NIS30,333 million the year before.

The financial statements of the HMOs for the first half of 2012 show that the deficit pattern is continuing, says the Ministry, adding that, based on these reports and on HMO forecasts, 2012 is expected to end with a "substantial deficit.”