The Times and the Daily Mail are being accused of ‘1980s hysteria’ after writing furious headlines over yesterday’s PrEP ruling.
The High Court ruled NHS England is responsible and can provide PrEP, a medication that has extremely high success rates in preventing the contraction of HIV.
National AIDS Trust were successful in their suit after NHS England claimed they did not have the power to commission the HIV prevention drug, who suggested it was left up to the local authorities in dealing with sexual health.
In press statements, NHS England said if they were to fund PrEP they would not be able to fund other interventions – for example children with cystic fibrosis. They also stated they would appeal the judgement.
Some papers ran with this line in outrage.
‘WHAT A SKEWED SENSE OF VALUES’, screamed the Daily Mail, while The Times went with the calmer ‘HIV drug puts other care at risk, warns NHS’.
Just seen the front pages of the Times and Daily Mail. It’s the 80s all over again.
— Olenna Spence (@AaronLSpence) August 2, 2016
I like the way the Daily Mail refers to PrEP as a “lifestyle drug” just in case you were wondering which century they’re living in.
— The No Show (@The_No_Show) August 3, 2016
— Andy McColl (@ImAndyMcColl) August 2, 2016
The Mail said PrEP, which they called a ‘lifestyle drug’, would lead to ‘cancer patients being deprived’, ‘cataract surgeries being rationed’, and quoted the Christian Medical Fellowship who warned of providing drugs to ‘promiscuous homosexuals’.
It also said PrEP was more expensive than treating someone with HIV, which is inaccurate. No assessment has been made of the cost benefit of PrEP and what level of prioritization will be afforded.
The number of £400 per person a month is the trade price of Truvada, the trademarked PrEP, and the NHS can and will haggle.
National AIDS Trust has since emphasized the delay in decision of a number of other possible new healthcare drugs, but stated this was the responsibility of NHS England.
The charity said to single just PrEP out as a policy which would be funded at the expense of others is invidious, prejudices NHS England’s position in relation to PrEP and raises serious questions as to the integrity and impartiality of NHS England’s approach.
Deborah Gold, Chief Executive of NAT, said: ‘We call on NHS England to abandon its appeal, to allow the commissioning process to take its course and to stop pre-empting publicly the discussions and decisions which should properly take place in the Clinical Priorities Advisory Group.’
Mike Walpole MP, the chair of the All-Party Group on HIV and AIDS, said the ‘behavior of NHS England in putting one group of patients against another is wholly unprofessional’.
‘NHS England had previously agreed to fund the drug then decided it wasn’t in their remit. To suggest it is this patient group or another was never the argument and NHS England are showing themselves to be petty and spiteful when they should be clinically evaluating PrEP,’ he said.
‘PrEP is likely to be for one or two years – about £10,000 compared to the lifetime costs of testing HIV at £380,000. Plus, when the drug comes off patent in 2018 the costs will plummet.’
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