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Israeli Health Ministry to Subsidize Chromosomal Microarray Analysis for High-risk Pregnancies

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The Israeli government has decided to make microarray-based prenatal genetic testing available to its citizens for free.

According to a report in the Tel Aviv-based Haaretz Daily, the country's Ministry of Health will subsidize chromosomal analysis for pregnancies that are considered to be of high risk, either based on an abnormal ultrasound finding or another test that indicates a potential abnormality. Access to the test is subject to the recommendation of a geneticist.

The new policy will cost Israeli taxpayers between ILS 2 million ($526,000) and ILS 3 million ($789,000) a year. The ministry began offering CMA this week. To date, it has only been available via private medical centers, at a cost of between ILS 3,500 ($919) and ILS 5,000 ($1,314) per test, according to the report.

It is unclear what platform will be used in the new service. E-mails and phone calls to the ministry's community genetics department were not returned. According to the report, the array used can detect "more than 270 genetic syndromes."

Joel Zlotogora, who heads the community genetics department, said in the report that the ministry decided to subsidize CMA because it is a "far more precise method" than existing genetic tests like amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling. Zlotogora also said that CMA will complement, rather than replace, amniocentesis.

"The whole world is deliberating whether to allow most women to use this test, but right now no country is replacing the basic tests with this one," Zlotogora was quoted as saying.

Yoram Plotsky, CEO of Galil Genetic Analysis, a Kazerin-based lab that has been certified to offer CMA, told BioArray News, that the government decided to subsidize CMA because of "public pressure about the increasing difference in medical treatment due to [economic status]." He said that private labs like GGA have offered CMA "for a while," but that the tests were performed at the patients' expense.

Plotsky said that GGA uses the Affymetrix platform for CMA. While the Ministry of Health will perform its own tests, Plotsky said it would also pay for tests at private centers and labs, such as GGA. Plotsky added that he does not know what platform the Ministry of Health has decided to use.

Most array vendors and firms that offer CMA have a presence in the Middle East. PerkinElmer's Signature Genomic Laboratories, for instance, recently published a study comparing array orders from Israel with those from Canada and the US (BAN 4/10/2012).

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