After a 16-day hunger strike by cancer patients to get drugs to fight colon cancer added to the budget, the standoff over the 2006 health budget came to a dramatic close on Monday. The government approved an extra 350 million shekels ($78 million) for several drugs to be added to the budget. Various groups challenged the Health Basket Committee's decision to exclude medicines from the budget, but the hunger strike by cancer patients drew national sympathy and caught the attention of several political leaders. “Ten to 12 billion shekels remained unused from the previous budget... but the government refuses to use it for these dire medicines,” charged Ya'acov Litzman, Finance Committee chairman. “The government should purchase and supply life-saving drugs, without commission fees, directly to the patients,” Member of Knesset Yitzhak Galanti of the Pensioner’s party said. Sources close to Prime Minsiter Ehud Olmert however said he was irritated by Labor's threats to leave the coalition and that Labor leader Amir Peretz “overstepped his place.”
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