Politics

The Groundbreaking HIV Drug PrEP Will Be Publicly Subsidised In Australia For The First Time

This is very good news.

The groundbreaking HIV prevention drug, PrEP, looks set to be listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), drastically slashing its price and increasing its accessibility for tens of thousands of potential users.

According to Fairfax the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee, which provides recommendations on what drugs should be listed and publicly subsidised, is set to advise the government to list Truvada, the commercial name for PrEP.

Fairfax is also reporting that the federal health minister, Greg Hunt, will support that recommendation and move to list the drug on the PBS, providing it with a publicly subsidy that will massively decrease the price of a prescription.

The drug is considered to be 99% effective at preventing new HIV diagnoses when used properly.

Truvada can currently cost up to $10,000 a year but a PBS listing is expected to bring the price to below $500 a year, meaning thousands of at-risk individuals, including men who have sex with men, injecting drug users and sex workers, will have greater access to the drug.

The likely decision has been welcomed by advocates. Nic Holas, the co-founder of the The Institute of Many (TIM), a peer-run group for HIV positive people, said in a statement: “For too long, people living with HIV have born the brunt of expectation, responsibility, and blame when it comes to keeping the community safe from HIV. PrEP offers HIV negative people the opportunity to take more responsibility for their own safety”.

“PrEP is a necessary and urgent tool, and one of a new array of options in the fight to end HIV,” Holas said. “We have long said that until PrEP is fully accessible, it will not be fully effective. We have already seen in some jurisdictions how PrEP, in combination with other prevention methods, testing strategies, and meaningful community engagement, has helped to reduce instances of HIV transmission. Now, we hope to see the same effect across the country, and beyond just the community of gay and bisexual men affected by HIV.”

Last year the federal Labor opposition announced it would spend $53 million to fund further trials of PrEP, with a view to eventually list the drug on the PBS.

The New Zealand government also announced this week that it would publicly subsidise the drug, reducing the price to just $1.20 a month. Norway, France, Belgium, Kenya, South Africa, and Brazil are the only other countries to offer subsidies for PrEP.