A leading HIV/AIDS charity has won a high court battle over whether a preventative treatment for HIV that charities say that the drug, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a “game-changer” can legally be funded by NHS England.
Following the ruling the charity HIV Scotland said that the Scottish government should take steps and make PrEP available now in Scotland.
When taken consistently, PrEP has been shown to reduce the risk of HIV infection in people who are at high risk by more than 90%. It is thus a highly effective anti-retroviral treatment can to stop HIV from becoming established in the event of transmission.
Scotland’s Health Secretary Shona Robison told KaleidoScot that this will happen when Truvada is licenced for PrEP and authorised by “the Scottish Medicines Consortium, at a fair price”.
NHS England argued it was up to councils to do so as they are in charge of preventative health, a stance challenged by the National Aids Trust (NAT).
Mr Justice Green ruled in favour of the challenge saying that NHS England had “erred” in arguing it was not their responsibility.
NHS England has already announced it will appeal the ruling – and even if that goes against health bosses it is not a given that Prep will be considered effective enough to warrant NHS funding.
George Valiotis, CEO of HIV Scotland told KaleidoScot: “HIV Scotland strongly believes that PrEP should be accessible in Scotland to those who would benefit most as part of a comprehensive prevention package. PrEP can make a real reduction in the number of new HIV transmissions. PrEP is not for everybody and we need to make sure that public health response is tailored to individuals.”
He also added that “It’s reassuring to see sensible decision making in England with regards to PrEP. We’re encouraged that no one is doubting that PrEP works and is a cost-effective strategy to add to the existing options for preventing HIV.”
Valiotis said that the “Scottish PrEP Short Life Working Group will present advice on cost-effectiveness of PrEP in Scotland, access it, and training” will present its recommendations to the Scottish government in October, and for the “deliberation” of Scotland’s Health Minister.
In response, Health Secretary Shona Robison told KaleidoScot: “Although PrEP is not currently licensed for use in the UK, we have been monitoring developments closely and note with interest today’s judgement in England.
“On 22 July the European Medicines Agency recommended granting a marketing authorisation for Truvada’s use as PrEP. This opinion will now be sent to the European Commission for the adoption of a decision to change the marketing authorisation and we would urge the European Commission to do this quickly.
“As soon as Truvada is licenced for PrEP we will call on its manufacturer to submit an application to the Scottish Medicines Consortium, at a fair price, so its routine use in Scotland can be considered as quickly as possible.
A Scottish activist, who asked to remain anonymous, told KaleidoScot: “It’s time the Scottish government also takes concrete steps and stops passing responsibility to the European Commission or the Scottish Medicines Consortium.
“It’s already available in France, Canada, the USA and most recently Australia. While I was encouraged that previously First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Scotland will take a different approach regarding PrEP than England, so far I’ve seen no evidence to suggest this is happening.
“For me the time for public statements is over, its time to put PrEP into practice.”