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NHS has the power to fund ‘game-changing’ HIV drug PrEP

Pills for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent HIV

It has been announced that NHS England does have the power to commission PrEP, a drug which protects people who are at a high risk of HIV infection, after NHS England lost a High Court ruling claiming they did not have this power.

NHS England claimed that it couldn’t legally commission the drug because local authorities have the responsibility to arrange services to prevent HIV spread, while their own responsibility is to treat those already with HIV.

PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is a strategy which involves people who do not have HIV (HIV negative), but at a high risk of catching the infection, taking the drug to make sure they are as protected as possible.

The case was risen by the National AIDS Trust (NAT) and they say this means that NHS England will need to reveal its decision on whether PrEP will be recommended for funding.

Deborah Gold, Chief Executive of NAT, highlights that HIV is a critical issue in the UK, with over 4,000 people acquiring the infection every year.

“PrEP works, it saves money, and most importantly it has the power to prevent HIV acquisition for thousands of people, at the same time as beginning to end the HIV epidemic. This judgement brings that possibility one step closer.”

According to NAT, the lifetime cost of HIV treatment for one person is estimated to be £280,000 – £360,000, and has argued PrEP is more cost effective.

“We look forward to what we hope will be a balanced and evidence-based decision on PrEP by NHS England, as well the opportunity to work alongside NHS England collaboratively for the benefit of people living with and at risk of HIV.”

A spokesperson for NHS England has revealed the next three actions after this High Court ruling, firstly formally considering whether to fund PrEP. “Secondly, we will discuss with local authorities how NHS-funded PrEP medication could be administered by the sexual health teams they commission.

“Thirdly, we will immediately ask the drug manufacturer to reconsider its currently proposed excessively high pricing, and will also explore options for using generics.”

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