After years of urging the province for changes, sexual health advocates are hopeful Alberta will finally fund an expensive drug that can prevent the spread of HIV.
The province is looking at adding pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, to its public drug plan, which would make the prescription more widely available and perhaps far cheaper.
When taken as prescribed, the once-daily pill is up to 99 per cent effective at preventing the spread of HIV, a disease that has hit about 6,800 Albertans, according to advocates. Last year alone, there were more than 200 diagnoses.
The brand name version of the medication, Truvada, can cost up to $1,000 per month, which is unaffordable for many.
Ontario and Quebec subsidize the drug in their public plans, while the medication is now free in British Columbia for anyone at high risk of getting HIV.
In Alberta, even generic versions can cost $400 to $500 per month without private insurance. “Although PrEP is not an HIV vaccine, it works like a vaccine,” said Alex Smith, a Calgary nurse who has developed a method for patients to import the drug from foreign suppliers for just $45 monthly.
The Alberta government said in a statement it is conducting a months-long review of generic PrEP to assess possible coverage, looking at the potential costs to patients and government, practices in other jurisdictions, potential ranges of coverage and overall accessibility.
Leslie Hill, executive director of HIV Community Link, says the Alberta government‘s review presents a “significant opportunity to turn the tide” on HIV. Read more via Twin City Telegraph