TWO large shipments of PrEP to Australia from an online pharmacy in Swaziland were delayed for release by the Australian Border Force, despite having the correct paperwork attached to the order.

The two shipments contained a three-month supply for 24 people of the HIV preventative drug Truvada, which is not yet available in Australia. They were not cleared by a Border Force senior compliance order that claimed the shipments were subject to a goods and services tax (GST) as their combined total value was over $1000.

[showads ad=MREC] The shipments — which arrived on January 7 and 11 respectively — were organised by PrepAccessNow (PAN), a Victorian-based association that collectively orders PrEP online to help to subsidise the medicine for people who can’t afford to pay for it themselves.

PAN co-founder Phillip Joffe said the shipments contained 24 separate orders and each had the associated prescription and payment invoice for each person’s order, proving the shipments were not a bulk order but multiple individual orders.

“The Customs ruling is if a person imports medication under the value of $1000, there is no GST payable on medication,” he said.

“Customs request documentation with the shipment, they request the copy of each individual script and each individual’s payment.

“They are fully aware there are 24 people who are each paying $165 to import medication.”

Joffe said over the past few months, 10 shipments of PrEP ordered through PAN had already arrived in Australia and cleared by the Australian Border Force (ABF) without any issues including as recently as January 4.

“The shipment on the 4th of January cleared within two hours,” he said.

“This is absurdly ridiculous.”

According to Joffe, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and the office of Immigration Minister Peter Dutton cleared the ongoing shipments of PrEP by PAN and indicated they would not be subject to GST.

When asked for comment on the issue, a spokesperson for the Department of Immigration and Border Protection said: “While the TGA’s Personal Importation Scheme allows for the personal importation of Truvada, it also requires that the medication is imported by an individual for their personal use, or use by a member of their immediate family. The medication is not to be supplied to any other person.”

“The consignments in question were addressed to Mr Joffe, who it appears is neither the end user or prescription holder for this medication,” he said.

However, when pressed as to why previous shipments organised by PAN had not been subject to GST the spokesperson said “it is likely we may need to go back and look at previous shipments to ensure appropriate charges are being applied looking forward on future shipments”.

“The ABF encourages Mr Joffe to seek advice from the ATO on exemptions and refunds of GST that may apply to importations he arranges on behalf of other parties.”

The shipments have since been cleared after Joffe personally paid the GST on the two shipments, a figure which amounts to almost $1000, but he will need to seek reimbursement from the pool of funds held to subsidise the free PrEP.

“The priority is to get people’s pills to them,” he said.

“Let’s not lose sight of the fact that if the TGA approved PrEP, none of this would be happening.”

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