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NHS England will make PrEP for HIV available in April

Will be made available to patients at risk of contracting infection

NHS England

The UK Department of Health has confirmed that a drug that prevents the transmission of HIV will be available in England next month.

PrEP – or pre-exposure prophylaxis – will be made routinely available to patients considered to be at greater risk of catching HIV, for example if their partner is infected with the virus. The drug is already available in Wales and Scotland

“We are rolling out PrEP and making it available across the country – with evidence showing it almost completely eradicates the chances of getting HIV,” commented Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

“This will benefit tens of thousands of people’s lives, and drive us towards our ambition of zero HIV transmissions in this decade,” he added. It is estimated there are about 103,800 people currently living with HIV in the UK, including around 7,500 who are thought to be unaware of their status.

According to the DH, local authorities will receive £16m ($20m) in 2020-2021 to deliver PrEP, on top of the local authority public health grant.

PrEP has already been made available to in England through the three-year IMPACT trial in more than 20,000 participants who are at high risk of HIV, which started in September 2017.

The PrEP Impact Trial is using Mylan's generic version of Gilead Sciences’ antiretroviral therapy Truvada (emtricitabine/tenofovir disoproxil) but is due to come to an end in October. Now, they will be able to continue on PrEP after the trial closes.

Prior to the start of the trial there was a protracted and emotive battle between the DH and PrEP advocates over NHS England’s earlier decision not to make the drug routinely available.

It had previously argued that responsibility for funding it should lie with local authorities, and specifically public health budgets, prompting a legal challenge from the National AIDS Trust.

The Trust tweeted that the decision was “a vital step forward for HIV prevention,” but also cautioned that “we still have a long way to go before EVERYONE who needs PrEP has access to it”.

“It’s been clear for a long time that the trial could not meet demand for PrEP, with spaces at some clinics filling up fast. Routine commissioning is needed urgently to increase access and provide much needed certainty to those on the trial,” commented the NAT’s chief executive Deborah Gold.

“While we’re relieved at this announcement, making the medication available is not the end goal – it’s just one part of the struggle. The trial has successfully engaged with gay and bisexual men. However, very few other groups at risk – including women and non-binary people – are accessing places,” she added.

NAT also said that the funding commitment only covered one year (2020-2021) raising uncertainty about continued access to PrEP thereafter.

NHS funding of PrEP is expected to be less than the lifetime cost of treating someone who contacts HIV from someone already living with the virus.

Article by
Phil Taylor

16th March 2020

From: Regulatory

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