NZAF welcomes PHARMAC’s milestone proposal to fund Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)

In a proposal released today, PHARMAC has announced its intention to fund the HIV-prevention drug PrEP – meaning the medicine is one step closer to becoming available to those at highest risk of HIV in New Zealand.

  • 📅14 November, 2017

PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) is a daily pill taken by people who don't have HIV, but who are at high risk of acquiring the virus.

The medications in Truvada (emtricitabine with tenofovir disoproxil fumarate) are already available as a treatment for people living with HIV, but government funding for a preventive purpose could make an enormous difference to the community. PrEP has been proven to be extremely effective in preventing HIV transmission and has already made a significant impact on HIV transmission rates in other countries where it is more widely available.

NZAF has strongly advocated for the public funding of PrEP – it was NZAF who submitted the application to PHARMAC earlier this year, in the absence of an application from a pharmaceutical company. As of November 14th, over 2400 people had signed NZAF’s online petition to fund PrEP in New Zealand.

In proposing to fund PrEP, PHARMAC has confirmed that this is a safe and effective way of preventing HIV transmission through sex, and one that could make a huge impact on the number of new HIV diagnoses in NZ – which was at its highest ever in 2016.

It has already been approved for HIV prevention in a number of countries, but if the proposal goes ahead New Zealand will be one of the first countries in the world to have it publicly funded.

PrEP provides a new way of staying safe that can help us end new transmissions of HIV in New Zealand. We know condoms work. Now we also have a pill that works - and could be widely available as soon as March 1st, 2018. PrEP can transform the lives of those at risk of HIV who struggle with condom-use.

“PHARMAC funding would maximise the potential benefit of PrEP in New Zealand,” says Jason Myers, Executive Director, New Zealand AIDS Foundation (NZAF). “Making this tool publicly available would be a giant leap forward towards our ambitious goal of ending new HIV transmissions in New Zealand by 2025.”

NZAF will continue working with PHARMAC on the details of public funding, advocating for this ground-breaking tool to be made available and easily accessible to New Zealanders at high risk of HIV. If funding is approved, PrEP will be available in pharmacies nationwide to those with a valid prescription from their doctor. NZAF estimates that PrEP will be available for NZD$5 per 90 pills, which is three month’s supply.

Currently, around 3500 people in New Zealand are estimated to be living with HIV. Gay and bisexual men remain the population group most at risk. While gay and bisexual men account for only approximately 2.5% of New Zealand's population, they are consistently over-represented in HIV diagnoses – accounting for 89% of locally acquired HIV diagnoses in 2016. The public funding of PrEP is expected to have a drastic impact on the overall health of this group.

 

NZAF urges you to voice your approval of public funding for PrEP by making a submission to PHARMAC.

All feedback received before the deadline will be considered by PHARMAC before making a decision on the proposal. Written submissions can be emailed to Lindsay Ancelet, Therapeutic Group Manager PHARMAC at consult@pharmac.govt.nz by Tuesday, 5 December 2017.

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