14 2000 14:16
By Judy Siegel
(December 14) - Health Minister Roni Milo said yesterday that he hopes a panel of experts will consider adding Betaferone, a drug used to treat multiple sclerosis, to the basket of health services.
The autoimmune disease affects some 5,000 Israelis, according to a survey conducted in advance of the current Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Week.
Appearing at the Knesset Labor, Social Affairs and Health Committee held to mark the observance, Milo was also handed a petition signed by 51 MKs supporting such a request.
Other drugs for treating the autoimmune disease, such as Teva's Copaxone, are in the basket that all health funds must supply for their members.
One MS patient at the meeting said it was the first time she had left the house in two years. Varda Kabassa, who is confined to a wheelchair, said she lives on the third floor and is unable to leave without special help.
The Israel Multiple Sclerosis Society says there are some 5,000 patients here, but that 80 percent of them are reluctant to reveal that they are MS sufferers, even if they do not suffer any outward signs. MS patients may fear dismissal from their jobs or difficulties being hired. Many patients, according to the society, don't tell even their relatives that they have MS. More than half of MS sufferers are not members of the society, even though it offers them assistance. The awareness week is therefore regarded as important to inform the public, society representatives said.
A Teleseker poll sponsored by the society showed more than half the population is poorly educated about the disease, which commonly appears between the ages of 20 and 40.
Fifty-three percent of the 500 Israelis over 18 surveyed by the polling service knew little or nothing about the condition, said the society.
- some developed in Israel - are proven to reduce the frequency and severity
of neurological attacks that can cause paralysis, weakness, pain, blindness
and other difficulties in functioning.