UK judge rules HIV pill to prevent infection could be funded by NHS

03 Aug 2016


A high court judge yesterday ruled that an HIV pill to prevent infection could be funded by the state health service in England. The ruling has been hailed by AIDS campaigners who have been calling for its widespread use.

So-called pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) against HIV, using Gilead Sciences' medicine Truvada, could cut the risk of getting the virus during sex by more than 90 per cent, according to clinical studies.

However, the NHS (National Health Service) England had argued it was unable to fund the medicine because PrEP was a preventative service and therefore the responsibility of local authorities (See: NHS England to not fund drug that helps prevent HIV)

However, the high court in London, ruled there was nothing to stop NHS England paying for the drug, which had been recommended for preventative use by the European Medicines Agency last month.

The legal case had been brought by The Ntional AIDS Trust which argued that PrEP was a potential game-changer and was urgently needed in the UK, where over 4,000 people acquired HIV annually.

PrEP was being increasingly used in the US, where tens of thousands of people had filled prescriptions for Truvada to prevent infection.

According to commentators, though, despite the public opinion in favour of UK AIDS campaigners, there was no guarantee that PrEP would now get automatic  NHS funding.

The National AIDS Trust charity argued that health authorities had an ethical duty to fund pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, a daily treatment that greatly reduced the risk of becoming infected with HIV.

Judge Nicholas Green said a strong case existed for preventative treatment, "but one governmental body says it has no power to provide the service and local authorities say they have no money."

The judge ruled that the health service "erred in deciding that it has no power or duty" to commission the treatment.

"The power of NHS England includes commissioning for preventative purposes, and this includes for HIV-related drugs," Green said.

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