Doctor Israel news photo: Flash 90

The Ministerial Committee on Legislation on Sunday took up the issue of establishing a national database for pharmaceutical prescriptions. A law proposed by MK Gila Gamliel (Likud) would allow any pharmacy in Israel to draw information about a patient's prescriptions from the health fund clinic's database, essentially enabling all pharmacies to be part of the networks of all the health funds, and supply all Israelis of any health fund with subsidized pharmaceuticals.

Currently, patients who need drugs are required to buy them at pharmacies sponsored by the health funds themselves – usually located on-premises at their local clinics – or at in-town pharmacies that have an arrangement with a specific fund, in order to buy them at government-subsidized prices.

Patients who need emergency supplies or cannot get to affiliated pharmacies have to pay full price for pharmaceuticals – at often 20 or 30 times the subsidized price – and only later can they file for a refund. The new law would allow all pharmacies to affiliated with all health funds via a single pharmaceutical database, allowing any pharmacy to supply patients with subsidized drugs.

Small, private pharmacies have complained that the health funds have been very slow to connect them to their databases. Thus, even a pharmacy that has an arrangement with a health fund often can't get prescriptions, unless the patients bring them in themselves. According to the pharmacies, the health funds favor the large pharmaceutical chains, and of course their own in-house pharmacies. Gamliel's legislation was prompted as a response to these complaints, and has wide support in the Knesset, she said.

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