HIV Prevention drug approved for PBS listing
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HIV Prevention drug approved for PBS listing

The cost of the HIV prevention pill ‘PrEP’ is set to dramatically reduce after receiving final approval for listing on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

In a decision published Friday 9th of February, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) found the once-a-day pill PrEP, or ‘pre-exposure prophylaxis,’ provides a significant reduction in the risk of HIV transmission in combination with other safe sex practices.

The pill was tested as extremely effective at preventing HIV transmission, with 99 per cent effectiveness among gay and bisexual men. But until now, access to the medicine has been patchy, and the full commercial cost has been prohibitively expensive at almost $5,000 per year.

Although around 10,000 Australians are reportedly receiving free PrEP through trials being run by state governments, including in Queensland, without a PBS subsidy the cost of the medication has put it out of reach of many men not on a trial.

The PBAC recommended the listing following a finding that the drug provides for some patients a significant reduction in the risk of sexually-acquired HIV, in combination with other safe sex practices. The PBAC’s recommendation for listing was further based on, among other matters, its assessment of the cost-effectiveness of PrEP based on the model developed by the Kirby Institute.

The PBAC also reaffirmed its position that it was appropriate for an eligible population to include medium and high risk individuals as defined in the PrEP guidelines published by the Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine (ASHM), and that patients should return a negative HIV test result prior to commencing PrEP.

Importantly, the PBAC noted the cost-effectiveness of PrEP was dependent on the extent of uptake and the risk profile of the individuals in which PrEP is utilised, and considered the impact of a number of uptake scenarios on the cost- effectiveness of PrEP.

Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO)’s CEO, Darryl O’Donnell, welcomed the decision, saying a single averted HIV transmission saves the Australian taxpayer $1 million in lifetime costs.

“PBS listing of PrEP is a huge step towards the Australian Government’s goal of ending Australian HIV transmission. However, this is only the beginning of the end,” he said. “We need co-ordinated leadership and resources to achieve Australia’s true potential of ending HIV transmission.”