Three patients who are suffering from a rare form of blood cancer may be denied life-saving stem cell transplant operations, and the NHS are blaming the cost of PrEP.
The patients, including a mother of three, a former gynaecologist and a senior NHS consultant, have had their treatments reassessed because of the High Court ruling that the NHS must consider paying for PrEP.
The patients fear that their lives will be shortened because the treatment has been put on pause until the ruling on the appeal is announced in November.
The cost of the HIV prevention drug is being blamed for the halt on the procedures of the patients.
However, health experts have said rolling out PrEP in the UK would be cost-effective if it leads to even a small reduction in HIV infections, as the lifetime cost of treating one HIV infection can be up to £380,000.
Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) drug Truvada can reduce people’s chances of being infected with HIV by up to 99 percent if taken daily. The pill costs less than £500 per year if generic drugs are used.
This story is another in a long line of negative press about PrEP that the NHS has been accused of feeding to the press.
The National Union of Journalists hashs en condemned parts of the media for spreading “out-dated homophobic tropes” in coverage of HIV-preventing PrEP drugs.
NHS England had claimed earlier this year that it was not responsible for commissioning PrEP, suggesting it is up to local councils – but a court battle last month concluded that the NHS does have responsibility.
Ben Bradshaw, the Labour MP and former health minister, said: “If it is true that patients are being told this, that is cruel and totally unacceptable behaviour on the part of those telling them and on the part of NHS England for trying to play one group of patients off against another.
After an annual review NHS England said in July that it would fund 18 treatments pending the High Court decision about Prep. After it lost the case, however, it said the nine treatments would be reassessed next month with a final decision announced in November.
HIV charities and healthcare campaigners are angry at the way funding for PrEP has been portrayed as a threat and competitor to other treatments.
“It is deeply misleading and disrespectful to all patients,” said Michael Brady, medical director of the Terrence Higgins Trust, the Aids and HIV charity.
NHS England said in a statement: “Given the NHS has never had unlimited funding, it’s always been necessary to decide which are the best new treatments to fund and that’s what happening here. In the real world there’s no escaping the fact that if an extra £20m is spent on one particular new drug, it won’t be available for other treatments.”