Australia: Subsidy for HIV prevention drug PrEP to slash cost

An incredibly effective HIV prevention drug looks likely to be approved for federal subsidy this week, slashing the price from close to $10,000 a year to only $474.

The federal health minister, Greg Hunt, has promised that PrEP (Pre-exposure prophylaxis) – a daily preventative drug that reduces the risk of HIV infection by up to 99% – will be added to Australia’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) if the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee recommends it.

PBS listing would bring the price of PrEP , which is sold in Australia under the brand name Truvada, down to $39.50 for a monthly prescription. Truvada currently costs an estimated $850 a month, while cheaper, generic brands of PrEP cost $130 a month through private import.

The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee will release its decision on Friday but, on Thursday, Fairfax Media reported that a positive recommendation for PrEP was “almost certain”. If that happens, Hunt has given a commitment to list PrEP on the PBS. 

PrEP is an antiretroviral drug to be taken by those at high risk of HIV infection. Among gay and bisexual men, it has an efficacy of rate of 99% if used every day. It does not prevent other STIs and the Australian Federation of Aids Organisations recommends it be used in addition to condoms.

Darryl O’Donnell, the chief executive of the Australian Federation of Aids Organisations (AFAO), said improving access to PrEP, especially in migrant and Indigenous communities, was now the next step. “PrEP will make a huge difference but it only helps if it its in the hands of people who can benefit from it,” he said. “There are populations, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait communities, who don’t have the same kind of health service access to come forward and ask about PrEP. [PBS listing] needs to be accompanied by health promotion, outreach and educating doctors and pharmacists in prescribing it. Read more via the Guardian

[updated 2-9-2018]

HIV drug PrEP wins taxpayer subsidy marking milestone in decades-long battle against AIDS

A ground-breaking HIV prevention drug has been approved for taxpayer subsidy in Australia — marking a major milestone in the four decades long battle against HIV and AIDS. PrEP or pre-exposure prophylaxis has been recommended for listing on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme by a panel of experts.

The Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt previously promised government funding for the drug if approved by the committee. The decision is expected to see the over-the-counter cost of the drug drop from up to $1,000 to about $40.

Victorian AIDS Council CEO Simon Ruth said it should be available by the middle of the year from any doctor or pharmacy. Read more via ABC