The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) has decided to defer the listing of HIV prevention drug PrEP on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

ACON, NSW’s leading HIV prevention and LGBTI health organisation, has committed to continuing to advocate for affordable access to the ground-breaking drug.

PrEP was approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration in May last year, paving the way for the sale of the medicine, known as Truvada, in Australia. But without federal subsidy, it remains too expensive for most people.

The onus is now on the sponsoring companies and PBAC to enter negotiations to resolve the outstanding issues.

ACON president Dr Justin Koonin said PrEP has proved to be an important HIV prevention option for many people and is a vital tool in ending HIV transmissions in NSW.

“We know that PrEP works. What we need now is to ensure that those who would benefit most from it are able to access it in an affordable way,” Dr Koonin said.

“However, time is of the essence and we strongly urge PBAC to take into consideration that there are, on average, three new HIV diagnoses every day in Australia.

“Prevention of HIV is cheaper than a lifetime of treatment and we urge all involved to move on this issue soon.”

Studies have shown that PrEP is extremely effective at preventing HIV transmission, and recent demonstration projects throughout Australia have continued to show strong results.

Currently, over 6,600 people at high risk of acquiring HIV are being protected by PrEP.

“NSW is leading the way in terms of PrEP access not only nationally, but internationally as well. Our community has clearly demonstrated that it is ready to incorporate biomedical strategies, such as PrEP, into their lives as part of the range of HIV prevention options,” Dr Koonin said.

“HIV remains an incurable, lifelong condition which has a range of implications, including treatment costs for every individual with HIV for the rest of their lives. We know PrEP works and we know that [the EPIC-NSW PrEP study], which has been running since March 2016, has been making a real impact.

“We have seen strong leadership on this issue in NSW from the NSW Government and the NSW health system, now we need the Australian government and associated national regulatory and funding bodies to do the same.”

ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill said that there are still ways to access low-cost PrEP in NSW through certain arrangements.

“For people at significant risk of contracting HIV in NSW, the EPIC-NSW study is still recruiting. We have had fantastic engagement from a range of clinicians and services, which means there places available right across the state. To find out if you are eligible to the study you can call 1800 451 624,” Parkhill said.

“Those who are not eligible for EPIC-NSW can talk to their doctor about personal importation, which is a slightly more cumbersome and involved process. More information about this is available on the Ending HIV website.”

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