NZAF welcomes Medsafe’s milestone decision to approve Truvada for Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)

  • 📅9 February, 2017

The approval means PrEP is one step closer to becoming available to those who need it in New Zealand.

Truvada is already available as a treatment for people living with HIV, but registration for a preventive purpose could make an enormous difference to the community. The use of the HIV treatment drug, Truvada, to prevent HIV is called pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).

In registering Truvada for PrEP, Medsafe has confirmed that this is a safe and effective way of preventing HIV transmission through sex. Truvada is a daily pill taken by people who don't have HIV, but who are at high risk. Truvada has already been approved for HIV prevention in a number of countries.

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. PrEP can transform the lives of those at risk of HIV who struggle with condom-use.

Medsafe’s approval is a positive step, and comes just before the launch of the of NZPrEP study which will make PrEP freely available to 150 gay and bisexual men in Auckland at highest risk of HIV.  One of the objectives of this pilot study is to demonstrate PrEP acceptability and implementation in New Zealand to support the case for funding from PHARMAC.

The cost of filling a Truvada prescription without PHARMAC funding is prohibitive for those not included in the study. The registration of Truvada as PrEP is a step in the right direction, but now PHARMAC and the drug manufacturer Gilead Sciences need to agree on terms for public funding.

“Without PHARMAC funding, it will be difficult to maximise the potential benefit of PrEP. We call on both PHARMAC and Gilead Sciences, to agree on terms for public funding so that this ground-breaking tool is affordable for New Zealanders at highest risk of HIV. Making this tool available would be a giant leap forward towards our ambitious goal of ending new HIV transmissions in New Zealand by 2025,” says Jason Myers, Executive Director, New Zealand AIDS Foundation (NZAF).

NZAF will continue working with both Gilead Sciences and PHARMAC, encouraging them to act in the best interests of those at highest risk of HIV by making PrEP available and affordable to those who need it.

Currently, around 3200 people in New Zealand are estimated to be living with HIV. Gay and bisexual men remain the population group most at risk. Of the 224 diagnoses in 2015, 153 were amongst gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men. Of the 109 people infected with HIV in New Zealand in 2015, 88, or 81%, were gay and bisexual men. 

Need PrEP?

People considering PrEP are recommended to discuss it with a doctor experienced in in HIV and sexual health, who will be able to help decide and prescribe it, if it is right for you. A pharmacy can fulfil the prescription, but, because Truvada is not yet funded by PHARMAC for use as PrEP, the cost is approximately $1000 for a 30 day supply.

Cheaper generic version (copies of brand name drugs) of Truvada can be purchased online from overseas suppliers and imported to New Zealand. The cost of generic Truvada would be approximately $60-100 per month.

Medicines ordered over the internet require a New Zealand-issued prescription from a doctor. To purchase or import a generic version of Truvada into New Zealand, a valid New Zealand issued prescription to accompany the medicine being imported needs to be obtained first.

A PrEP advocacy group in the UK has developed this resource for those looking to purchase PrEP from overseas.