The Welsh government has announced that they will fund a trial for HIV prevention drug PrEP on the NHS.
PrEP – Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis – is an anti-HIV medication taken by people who are HIV negative to lower their risk of contracting the infection.
The decision comes days after All Wales Medicines Strategy Group (AWMSG) advised the Welsh government to not fund PrEP, suggesting that it is not convinced the treatment is cost effective.
Although the drug – in this case Truvada – could cost up to £400 per patient a month, multiple studies across the world have shown the medication to be an effective way of reducing the risk of contracting HIV.
Wales’ decision to fund a trial for PrEP could hopefully lead to the drug eventually being made available on the NHS.
“We are heartened and relieved that the Welsh government have listened to people affected by HIV, and will make PrEP available to people who need it in Wales, through a three year trial,” Sarah Fuhrmann, National Director for Terrence Higgins Trust in Wales, said.
“Although this is not a long-term solution, it is undoubtedly a momentous step forward for Wales, where investment in HIV prevention has been patchy at best.
“Making PrEP available to people at risk of HIV will not only protect them from a lifelong and stigmatised condition, it will also save our NHS £360,000 in lifetime treatment costs for every person who would have become HIV positive without PrEP. Common sense has prevailed.
“A trial is only ever a temporary answer, however, and we will be looking to the government to commit to making PrEP routinely available in Wales for those at risk, as Scotland has already done. We must not see the same delays or uncertainty that we’ve seen in England around PrEP.
“Nevertheless this is a welcome step and we hope the trial paves the way for a long-term home for PrEP on the NHS in Wales.”
The decision comes after Scotland announced it would become the first country in the UK to offer PrEP on the NHS.
What’s more, after losing a high-profile court battle last year, NHS England are expected to offer patients a trial of the drug in the coming months.