DrugsThe Cabinet yesterday unexpectedly authorized Health Minister Eliezer Shostak to examine the use of experimental drugs developed by qualified physicians for treatment of patients with incurable illnesses. The Minister was instructed to recommend to the Cabinet amendments to existing legislation governing the licensing of new drugs if his findings indicate that amendments are warranted.

The Cabinet acted following the death Saturday of Reven Maayan, a terminal cancer patient, only hours after the Supreme Court rejected his appeal to allow an as yet untested drug to be used on him. The drug, known as DMBG, was invented by an Israeli physician, Dr. David Rubin, and is being produced for research purposes by the Hebrew University laboratory.

Its use in Israel has not been licensed because, according to Dr. Baruch Modan, Director General of the Health Ministry, there is insufficient evidence that it is not toxic.

Rubin is presently abroad, reportedly administering his drug to cancer patients in another country at the request of their physicians. Acting Supreme Court Justice Shoshana Netanyahu read the unanimous ruling of the court against Maayan’s appeal only a few hours before he died at Tel Hashomer Hospital. She said that it she could have followed the dictates of her heart, she would have ruled in favor of the appeal. But the court was restricted by laws prohibiting the use of new drugs until they are licensed by the Health Ministry, she said.

Maayan’s death and the publicity which surrounded his appeal, has led several Knesset members to suggest new laws that would lift the ban on experimental drugs under special circumstances.