NHS England has confirmed that it will not be commissioning pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medication, six weeks after promising to reconsider its decision not to fund a wide-scale roll out of the ground-breaking HIV-prevention treatment.
In a meeting today, (May 31) the Specialised Services Commissioning Committee stood by NHS England’s original decision earlier this year not to make the drugs available on the basis that local authorities are the responsible commissioner for HIV prevention services.
The body added that it “remains committed” to exploring possible future provision of PrEP, including the original plan to run a number of “test sites” over the next two years to research how the treatment could be introduce in the most “clinically and cost effective way”.
The news comes HIV rates among men who have sex with men (MSMs) continues to increase year on yeat in the UK, and despite studies which found that taking the PrEP drug Truvada daily proved “highly effective” in reducing the spread of HIV.
Truvada was approved for use in the USA in 2012, and PrEP medication has since been approved in France, Canada, Israel, and Kenya.
Politicians from the UK’s three largest political parties have all criticised the original decision, urging NHS England to make PrEP widely available to those most at risk of HIV transmission as a matter of urgency.
Today’s decision has already been branded “shameful” and “astonishing” by leading HIV charities.
Ian Green, Chief Executive of Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “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% effective in preventing HIV. A pill which is already available in America, Canada, France, Kenya and soon to be Australia.
He continued: “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.”
Meanwhile, the National AIDS Trust, whose threat of legal action forced the today’s failed reconsideration, has promised to investigate the possibility of using legal means to reverse the decision.
“The refusal to commission it for all those at significant risk is astonishing,” said the group’s Chief Executive, Deborah Gold. “Seventeen people are being diagnosed with HIV every day. We are extremely disappointed and we will now be looking at our options, including further legal action.”