Following a court ruling earlier today finding that the UK’s NHS should provide PrEP, the NHS have appealed the decision
The UK High Court has ruled that the NHS can fund the supply of PrEP to gay men. PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) is a once-a-day medication which previous studies have proven to be successful at reducing HIV transmission by more than 90%.
The cost of providing PrEP as it stands will be £400 a month per person. While this cost might seem high, coming in at £4,800.
On average, the cost of treating an HIV positive person throughout their lifetime costs the NHS £360,000.
Truvada (the brand name for the PrEP medication) created by pharmaceutical company Gilead is currently the only source of the drug due to patents the company holds.
Pharmaceutical companies set the prices for their drugs high, based upon a profit-margin that they must obtain within the period for which they hold the exclusive patent. The high prices of Truvada is to offset the considerable Research and Development that goes into their production.
However, estimates that a generic version of Truvada could become available as early as December 2017 indicate that a lower price for the drug might become available in the near future.
The NHS have decided to appeal the judgement from the High Court as well as weighing up the cost of supplying PrEP (estimated at between £10m to £20m per year) against other calls on them to provide specialised services.
The NHS will also put pressure on suppliers to reduce the cost of purchasing Truvada before a cheaper, generic version comes to market.
The National Aids Trust (NAT) said that the High Court ruling was “fantastic news. It is vindication for the many people who were let down when NHS England absolved itself of responsibility for PrEP.” However, NAT find the NHS’s decision to appeal “enormously disappointing.”
The NHS will put aside the money to provide PrEP in case they lose their appeal.
PrEP In Ireland
PrEP is not currently widely available in Ireland, with the HSE not currently prescribing it to patients, despite it’s proven track record at preventing the spread of HIV.
With HIV infection in MSM (Men who have Sex with Men) accounting for 47 per cent of all new diagnoses in the first six months of 2015, the failure of the HSE to provide access to PrEP is seriously and adversely affecting the lives of people within our community.
Although PrEP is not available, other methods of preventing HIV infection are such as PEP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis), condom use and other safe-sex practices.
Meanwhile, a HIV vaccine is being tested in South Africa at the moment in a trial of over 5,000 people, following a successful study in 2015.
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