More Affordable PrEP To Be Made Available In Irish Pharmacies

A less costly generic version of PrEP, the medication shown to dramatically reduce HIV risk, is to be made available on prescription in Irish pharmacies from Monday.

Prep Available In Ireland

“Today’s launch is an important step forward in Ireland’s campaign to reduce the incidence of HIV infection in Ireland.”

Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), the medication shown to dramatically reduce the risk of contracting HIV, is to be made available for the first time on prescription through Irish community pharmacists, it was announced today, World AIDS Day.

Teva Pharmaceuticals Ireland confirmed that its more affordable, generic version of the medication will be available to order in all pharmacies in the Republic of Ireland from Monday, 4 December for supply, with a doctor’s prescription.

PrEP has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of HIV infection through sex, particularly for those deemed at risk, such as gay and bisexual men, and transgender women.

First launched in the United States in 2012, PrEP works to prevent HIV from establishing infection inside the body. Two large clinical trials found that PrEP taken on a daily basis reduces the risk of HIV infection by 86 per cent. However, many experts view this figure to be a conservative estimate and believe the real rate of risk reduction to be much higher.

PrEP does not protect against other sexually transmitted infections (STI) or pregnancy, and it is not a cure for HIV. However, it is recognised as a powerful HIV prevention tool when combined with condoms and other prevention methods.

It is recommended that those who commit to taking PrEP every day see their doctor every three months and engage in regular sexual health testing.

Due to the fact that the HSE has not yet moved to reimburse PrEP, the medication will not be available to patients under the GMS or Drug Payment Scheme and must be paid for in full by the patient on presentation of a doctor’s prescription. The cost will be approximately €80 to €100 for a month’s supply, and will be up to 70 per cent cheaper than the current cost of its branded equivalent, Truvada.

Teva Pharmaceuticals Ireland is currently writing to all doctors working in the area of sexual health and sexually transmitted infections to update them on the availability of PrEP in community pharmacy, to ensure that they can advise their patients appropriately.

According to Sandra Gannon, General Manager of Teva, said: “Today’s launch is an important step forward in Ireland’s campaign to reduce the incidence of HIV infection in Ireland.

“On World AIDS Day it is timely that Irish patients now have the opportunity to increase their protection against HIV infection and ultimately prevent the needless spread of this disease, particularly when medical advances are allowing this to happen.”

While welcoming the development, Adam Shanley, Community HIV Activist stated: “It’s one step closer to ensuring that there’s access to PrEP for those who need it, but it still does have a considerable barrier who won’t be able to afford it. We know that some of the most vulnerable people in our community in terms of HIV infection also have an intersectionality with their ability to pay.

“There is a considerable drop in the price that the HSE would now have to pay to make PrEP reimbursable, so the cost effectiveness argument, if it was in any way questionable before, has no basis now.”

The Gay Men’s Health Service opened a new weekly PrEP monitoring clinic on Thursdays in Baggot Street hospital, while the Mater Hospital’s Prevention Support Clinic also offers a monitoring service.

“This means that there is appropriate structures to meet the potential demand,” says Shanley. “But while the news from Teva is really welcome, we can’t allow it to take our eye of the ball of a national, reimbursable PrEP programme, so that all those who need the medication can access it, regardless of their ability to pay.”

According to Gannon, Teva are “engaging with HSE to progress this issue to ensure that PrEP can be accessed by all.”

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