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Drug for rare immune system disease to be considered for health basket

Eosinophilic esophagitis is a rare immune system disease and can cause irreversible damage to esophageal tissue.

THE AUTHOR argues that drug companies work entirely to protect their own profits. (photo credit: REUTERS/CHRIS WATTIE)

THE AUTHOR argues that drug companies work entirely to protect their own profits.

(photo credit: REUTERS/CHRIS WATTIE)

A medicine for eosinophilic esophagitis, a rare immune system disease, will be considered for entry to the 2021 health basket during a meeting of the Public Committee for the Expansion of the Medical Health Basket Services for 2021 this week. 

Israel’s health basket includes a range of subsidized medical services, drugs, equipment and devices for permanent residents of the State of Israel.

The drug was filed for consideration to be added to the health basket by Rafa Laboratories.

Eosinophilic esophagitis is underdiagnosed in Israel and around the world because patients are sometimes mistakenly diagnosed with reflux, meaning that the health system does not have exact data on the number of patients suffering from the illness. However, about one in 5,000 Israelis is estimated to suffer from the disease, according to a press release by Rafa.

The chronic disease causes the accumulation of eosinophils, a type of white blood cell, which work to eliminate infections in the immune system. The accumulation in the gastrointestinal tract is caused as a response to food, allergens or acid reflux and can cause irreversible damage to esophageal tissue.

Environmental and genetic factors can lead to the development of the disease in people of all ages, sexes and ethnicities. Some families have an inherited tendency to contract the disease. Those suffering from eosinophilic esophagitis sometimes also suffer from other issues such as asthma, atopic dermatitis or food allergies.

Symptoms include recurrent heartburn that does not respond to treatment, difficulty swallowing, difficulty in transferring food to the stomach, abdominal and chest pain, diarrhea and weight loss.

Treatment of eosinophilic esophagitis can include pharmacological treatment, nutritional treatment or both. The drug treatment used until recently included a proton-pump inhibitor (PPI) used to treat the disease inhibits gastric acid secretion or a gel containing a steroid taken orally.

Recently, a dedicated drug was developed to treat the disease containing the same steroid used previously. The drug has already been approved for use in Israel.

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