Thousands of men will be able to trial HIV-prevention drugs on the NHS from next year
Over 10,000 gay men will be offered a trial of PrEP as early next year after the Court of Appeal ruled the NHS must fund the HIV prevention drug.
NHS lost the court battle earlier this year and in light of the ruling, they are holding the three-year trials to understand how to offer the drug on a wider scale.
The health service initially opposed funding the drug despite evidence that it is highly effective.
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 £360,000.
Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) drug Truvada can reduce people’s chances of being infected with HIV by over 90 percent if taken daily. The pill costs less than £500 per person per year if generic drugs are used.
The trial will get a grasp on who the drug should be offered to, its popularity and the time period it should be taken for.
Dr Ian Williams, chairman of NHS England’s group on HIV, said: “This announcement demonstrates NHS England’s commitment to fund Prep and provides the chance to best prepare England for optimal roll-out following this large-scale clinical trial.
“For now, the trial will provide access to Prep for thousands of people most at risk of acquiring HIV.”
The trial will cost up to £10 million and has been hailed as “life-changing” by AIDS charities.
Along with the announcement that trials would be started up, drug companies confirmed they would cut the price of the pill to alleviate financial worries of critics.
Deborah Gold, Chief Executive of the National AIDS Trust said: “We are absolutely delighted that following our wins in Court, NHS England, working with Public Health England and local government will be now making PrEP available on a large scale, and quickly, to those who need it.
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“We continue to seek reassurance that access to PrEP will not be unduly limited by geography, that routine commissioning will continue seamlessly at the end of the trial and that all those expected to be eligible through routine commissioning will be able to access PrEP via the trial. Despite these outstanding questions, there is no doubt that this step in the right direction has the potential to have a transformative impact for thousands of people, as well as prove the decisive point in beginning to combat the HIV crisis, all whilst saving the NHS money in the long term. We are looking forward to working alongside NHS England, Public Health England and local authorities with the simple shared aim of reducing new HIV infections.”
Ian Green, chief executive of the Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “With 17 new HIV diagnoses made every day, we need to be bold and ambitious in our approach to HIV prevention – and this must include access to PrEP for all who need it.
“Preventing the spread of HIV is good news for everyone,” he said.
The news comes after NHS abandoned a trial of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis in September. The trial studied 500 at-risk men but was abandoned part way through when NHS lost the court battle over funding.
The prevention medication has received a string of criticism, and the NHS was accused of feeding negative stories to the press.
HIV charities and healthcare campaigners are angry at the way funding for PrEP has been portrayed as a threat and competitor to other treatments.