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NHS England restates its refusal to fund ‘ground-breaking’ HIV drug


1 June 2016

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NHS England’s decision to not fund a new HIV drug treatment is “shameful”, says a leading charity for the disease.

Prep (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is a pill that, if taken daily, can reduce the risk of becoming infected with HIV by up to 86%.

However, the NHS has restated its position that they are not responsible for providing the treatment, because preventative services fall under the responsibilities of local authorities.

NHS England’s decision to not fund a new HIV drug treatment is “shameful”, says a leading charity for the disease.

Prep (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is a pill that, if taken daily, can reduce the risk of becoming infected with HIV by up to 86%.

However, the NHS has restated its position that they are not responsible for providing the treatment, because preventative services fall under the responsibilities of local authorities.

In a statement, the NHS said: “As set out in the Local Authorities (Public Health Functions and Entry to Premises by Local Healthwatch Representatives) Regulations 2013, local authorities are the responsible commissioner for HIV prevention services.”

However, NHS England also said that they remain “committed to working with other commissioners to explore the possible provision of prep.

“This includes working in partnership with Public Health England to run a number of early implementer test sites, backed with up to £2m investment over the next two years, to research how Prep could be commissioned in the most clinically and cost effective way.”

Ian Green, chief executive of Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “Today is a shameful day for HIV prevention.”

“This country used to lead the way in the fight against the HIV epidemic, but today, our national health service has washed its hands of one of the most stunning breakthroughs we’ve seen; a pill which, if taken correctly, is almost 100 per cent effective in preventing HIV.”

He added: “It is a mess, and the people who will feel the effects are the 2,500 men who have sex with men who will be needlessly infected with HIV each year in the UK.

“This figure has not changed in a decade. Who will claim responsibility for the life-long impact this will have on people’s lives?

“It’s not right that people who know themselves to be at high risk of HIV have to buy Prep themselves from the Internet at considerable personal expense.”

A spokesperson for the Local Government Association said the result was “hugely disappointing and a missed opportunity to launch a ground-breaking method of treatment

“Councils have invested millions in providing sexual health services since taking over responsibility for public health three years ago, and the Prep treatment could help reduce levels of HIV in the community.

“During the transition period to the implementation of the NHS and Care Act 2010, NHS England sought to retain commissioning of HIV therapeutics, which the Prep treatment clearly falls into. 

“It is, and should remain, an NHS responsibility unless it is fully funded for local authorities to pass on.

“Councils are already having to manage significant funding reductions to their public health budgets of £500 million over five years and NHS England’s decision not to commission Prep will only heap more pressure on public health services.”

The pill is already available in America, Canada, France and Kenya.

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