HIV prevention medication PrEP may finally be approved for a federal subsidy on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme on Friday, dramatically reducing its price for at-risk men.
PrEP, which stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis, is a once-daily pill that has been found to dramatically reduce the risk of HIV transmission in HIV-negative people, in conjunction with other safe sex measures.
Fairfax Media is reporting the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee will on Friday most likely issue a long-awaited “positive recommendation” for PrEP, also commonly known by its brand name Truvada.
The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme listing would bring the price of the medication from thousands of dollars a year down to just $39.50 per prescription – or just a couple of hundred dollars a year – putting it within reach of more Australian men.
Last year, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) delayed a decision to subsidise PrEP, acknowledging its effectiveness but said negotiations about its costs would continue with the drug’s manufacturers.
Health Minister Greg Hunt has previously pledged to promptly list the drug on the Pharamaceutical Benefits Scheme after the PBAC approval.
Mr Hunt told Fairfax Media in December he wouldn’t preempt the PBAC’s decision but “we are making very good progress” on negotiations.
“My hope is the PBAC will recommend PrEP and my commitment is if it does recommend PrEP we will list it and list it quickly,” he said.
Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations president Bridget Haire said the PBS listing would be a “huge step forward”.
“Coupled with additional investment in health promotion, workforce skills and co-ordinated leadership, this would allow us to properly pursue the end of Australian HIV transmission in Australia,” Dr Haire said.
“This would be a huge advance for people at risk of HIV and also a massive benefit to the Commonwealth, as every averted HIV transmission saves close to $1 million in lifetime care and treatment costs.”
This week, New Zealand became one of the first countries in the world to publicly fund the medication, reducing its purchase price for at-risk men from March 1.
Australian HIV prevention advocates have long been calling Australia to follow suit.
Around 10,000 Australians are currently receiving free PrEP through the trials being run by state and territory governments, including at twenty sites across Queensland.
Last year the World Health Organisation declared PrEP to be an “essential medicine”.