HIV prevention drug PrEP to be evaluated for State funding
Hiqa has began assessment to examine cost and clinical effectiveness of supply
PrEp, the once-daily medication has been proven to reduce the risk of HIV infection, particularly among members of the gay community, by up to 90 per cent.
Health authorities have begun a formal process to evaluate the possibility of introducing a State-funded HIV prevention drug.
The anti-HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) is already available for purchase in Ireland but this process will consider publicly funded access.
The once-daily medication has been proven to reduce the risk of HIV infection, particularly among members of the gay community, by up to 90 per cent.
Last week, the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) said it had commenced a “health technology assessment” (HTA) which will examine the cost and clinical effectiveness of a supply scheme.
Policy provision for PrEP is contained in the National Sexual Health Strategy 2015-2020.
Public health concern
Hiqa’s director of health technology assessment and deputy chief executive Dr Máirín Ryan said HIV infection remains a significant public health concern.
“In 2017 over 500 new HIV infections were reported to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) in Ireland,” she said.
“In fact, the years 2016 and 2017 witnessed the highest number of new HIV notifications ever reported to the HPSC.”
About half of all new cases were in the males who have sex with males (MSM) category. Since 2006, there has been a threefold increase in new infections in this community.
Last December it was reported that, obtained privately through a GP, PrEP cost about €400 a month. A generic drug, produced by Teva Pharmaceuticals, was expected to be about a quarter of that price.
If the medicine is taken before sex, it helps prevent the spread of HIV and can drastically reduce the number of infections.
“In addition to providing PrEP free of charge, such a [state funded] programme would also monitor patients through regular testing and provide counselling and advice,” Dr Ryan said.
“The assessment will also look at the budget impact of introducing a PrEP programme and assess the organisational and resource implications of such a service.”