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Drug watchdog to review HIV-preventing PrEP drugs amid NHS battle

Nick Duffy June 7, 2016

England’s drug watchdog NICE will investigate HIV-preventing PrEP drugs – after NHS England insisted it had no authority on the matter.

Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) drug Truvada can reduce people’s chances of being infected with HIV by up to 99 percent, if taken daily.

Though the drug is endorsed by the World Health Organisation and is available to at-risk gay men in a number of countries, NHS England last week ruled out a large scale roll-out for PrEP in England – instead funding “early implementer” sites while claiming it has no legal authority on the issue.

HIV charities have threatened legal action over the decision, while London Councils accused the NHS of “playing a waiting game”, stringing out a decision until drug patents expire.

But today, the government has announced that the drug watchdog National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) will conduct its own review of PrEP drug Truvada.
The NICE evidence summary will run alongside a pilot scheme set to start this summer, with its evidence summary published in the autumn.

Public Health Minister Jane Ellison announced the news in the Commons, adding: “HIV is a devastating disease.

“We know that PrEP can make a difference to both those at risk of contracting HIV, and those who are already HIV positive. However, it is crucial that we have a full understanding of all the issues surrounding PrEP.

“That is why, as well as a pilot scheme, the government has called for an evidence review, which will help inform future commissioning decisions about PrEP.”

She told the Commons it was a priority to tackle HIV among high-risk groups including men who have sex with men (MSM).

Labour’s Andrew Gwynne warned that 17 people are diagnosed with HIV every day, and said that PrEP is a potential “game changer”.

While welcoming the review, he raised concern about NHS England’s decision – and urged the Department of Health to clarify why it has not used powers to give NHS England “legal authority” to commission PrEP.

More: England, Gay, LGBT, Men, NHS, NHS England, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, PrEP, Same-sex, Truvada

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