Thousands of men will be able to access HIV-prevention drug PrEP within weeks
Thousands of people in England will be able to access PrEP on the NHS within weeks.
The UK government has revealed its timetable for rolling out the HIV-prevention drugs – after it lost a High Court battle opposing the trial in 2016.
More than 10,000 people from “high-risk” groups will now be able to access the drugs from NHS England this summer.
Health Minister Steve Brine revealed to parliament that “trial drugs could be available from early August.”
People considered to be at high-risk of contracting HIV – including men who have sex with men – will be eligible for the trial.
In response to a question by Labour MP Sharon Hodgson, the government minister said: “NHS England and Public Health England announced in December 2016 that up to £10 million is to be made available to run a three-year trial for pre-exposure prophylaxis to answer outstanding questions about future access and implementation.
“Work continues to ensure a robust trial starting as quickly as possible.
“Following the drug procurement, NHS England expects to be able to confirm the award of the final contract no later than the first week of August, meaning trial drugs could be available from early August, in readiness for the trial to begin once ethics approval is received and trial sites are prepared.”
The trial of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) drug Truvada will cost up to £10 million and has been hailed as “life-changing” by HIV AIDS charities.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) added PrEP to its list of essential medicines for preventing the spread of HIV earlier this year.
NHS England told PinkNews: “Our aim is to have the trial underway by the summer of 2017.
“STI clinic attendees considered to be at high risk of acquiring HIV will be eligible to participate in the trial.
“Heterosexual and transgender individuals and gay men will be clinically risk-assessed as part of combination prevention and those at high risk offered PrEP.”
They added: “There is no an exact start date for the trial as yet, as it is dependent on a number of factors such as the outcome of the drug procurement process and gaining ethics committee approval of the clinical trial protocol.”
NHS England lost a court battle in 2016 and subsequently agreed to hold a three-year trial to understand how to offer the drug on a wider scale.
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.
Shadow Minister for Public Health Sharon Hodgson told PinkNews: “There have been far too many delays with the roll-out of PrEP on the NHS here in England, which has stopped this transformative drug from reaching people who are exposed to HIV thus taking us one step closer to ending the spread of HIV within those communities who are most exposed to this disease.
“That is why I found it important that one of my first questions back as a Member of Parliament, and as Labour’s Shadow Minister for Public Health, was to get an answer out of the Government on when the trail – which was announced late last year – would finally take place.
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“It is welcome that we finally have a clearer timescale of when the trail will begin, but until the trial is up and running, I will be keeping a close eye on this Government to ensure there are no more delays or hindrances to getting this life-changing drug out to people.”
Dr Michael Brady, Medical Director at Terrence Higgins Trust, told PinkNews: “We welcome the further updates provided by NHS England and Public Health England regarding the PrEP trial in England.
“It is positive that we now have a timeframe for when the drugs will be procured.
“There are still key steps that have to happen after this, before people at risk of HIV have access to the trial, including getting ethics approval, and preparing the trial sites, so there’s still some way to go yet.”
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.
You can contact Terrence Higgins Trust Direct on 0808 802 1221 to find out how they can stay protected against HIV, or find information on buying generic PrEP at IWantPrEPNow.co.uk