After losing their battle not to fund the HIV prevention drug PrEP, the NHS have announced a clinical trial for the drug.
This is alongside a general extension to their HIV prevention programme, and the trial will be used so the NHS can learn how to offer the drug on a wider scale. The clinical trial will support 10,000 men over three years.
The NHS tried to get out of supplying the drug by arguing it was down to local authorities to provide PrEP, due to it’s preventative nature, but they were challenged in court by the National AIDS Trust and lost.
Now as a result, the highly effective drug which reduces the chances of being infected by 90% will be offered to thousands of men.
Dr Ian Williams, chairman of NHS England’s group on HIV, said: “This announcement demonstrates NHS England’s commitment to fund Prep and provides the chance to best prepare England for optimal roll-out following this large-scale clinical trial. For now, the trial will provide access to Prep for thousands of people most at risk of acquiring HIV.”
Dr Michael Brady, medical director of the Terrence Higgins Trust, also chimed in: “However, we do still need answers to many questions about the trial, in terms of how exactly the trial will work in practice, how those at risk will be able to access Prep, no matter where they live, and what will happen after the trial.”
While the trial is going to cost about £10 million, in the long run it will save both lives and money, as treating one HIV infection can cost up to £360,000. The move from the NHS has been praised as “life-changing” by AIDS charities.
Deborah Gold, chief executive of the National Aids Trust, said: “We are absolutely delighted that following our wins in court, NHS England, working with Public Health England and local government, will be now making Prep available on a large scale, and quickly, to those who need it. We continue to seek reassurance that access to PrEP will not be unduly limited by geography, that routine commissioning will continue seamlessly at the end of the trial and that all those expected to be eligible through routine commissioning will be able to access PrEP via the trial.”
“Despite these outstanding questions, there is no doubt that this step in the right direction has the potential to have a transformative impact for thousands of people, as well as prove the decisive point in beginning to combat the HIV crisis, all whilst saving the NHS money in the long term. We are looking forward to working alongside NHS England, Public Health England and local authorities with the simple shared aim of reducing new HIV infections.”