HIV-preventing PrEP trial will move ahead in England, after Scotland backs drugs
Public Health England and NHS England have confirmed they will move ahead with a trial of drugs that can reduce the likelihood of HIV infection – after the drugs were approved in Scotland based on existing evidence.
Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) drug Truvada can drastically reduce people’s chances of being infected with HIV, and is available in a number of countries to at-risk groups including sex workers, gay men, and people in serodiscordant relationships.
Health experts say 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 just one HIV infection can be up to £380,000.
Yesterday, Scotland became the first part of the UK to approve the use of PrEP as HIV prevention, with the Scottish Medicines Consortium approving its use to prevent HIV.
But in England, a 10,000-strong trial of PrEP is set to start this summer after a controversial legal battle over the drugs.
In the wake of the Scotland decision, Public Health England and NHS England gave an update on the PrEP Impact Trial.
The bodies explained: “Considerable progress has been made in preparing for the HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) trial [anounced last year].
“The trial, called the PrEP Impact Trial, will include at least 10,000 participants over the next 3 years and will answer key outstanding questions on the extent of need, uptake and duration of use of PrEP in the setting of sexually transmitted infection (STI) clinics in England. Our aim is to have the trial started by the summer of 2017.
“The trial protocol is complete, trial participant eligibility criteria have been endorsed by experts in the field and by community representatives, and independent peer review has been conducted.
“The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has been consulted about trial categorisation and a relevant opinion received. Submission for ethics committee approval is imminent.”
The health bodies confirmed that “STI clinic attendees considered to be at high risk of acquiring HIV will be eligible to participate in the trial”, with gay men and transgender people facing a high risk.
The trial “will include as many as possible of the over 200 level-3 STI clinics” in England, with clinics set to be consulted “in the next two weeks”.