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Burnet Institute welcomes the approval for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medication to be subsidised through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) as an important step forward for HIV prevention in Australia.
The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) announced its approval on Friday following a string of knockbacks over the past two years on the grounds of a lack of cost-effectiveness.
PBAC approval clears the way for the Federal Health Minister, the Hon Greg Hunt MP, to list the drug on the PBS.
PrEP is used by people who are HIV negative but at high risk of contracting HIV to lower their chances of becoming infected.
Research and trials have shown that PrEP is highly effective if taken daily.
“The PBAC decision is welcome news in terms of expanding accessibility and coverage of PrEP as a prevention tool,” Associate Professor Mark Stoové, Burnet Head of Public Health, said.
“Trials round the world, including Australia, indicate that PrEP is highly effective in reducing someone’s risk of acquiring HIV as long as it is taken regularly.
“We need to ensure we remove barriers to people taking PrEP as recommended. One of those barriers is cost, so the public subsidy of PrEP is likely to have a positive impact on HIV prevention in Australia.”
Subsidisation through the PBS will slash the cost of the medication to around $39.00 per script for most patients in Australia, and $6.30 for concession cardholders.
Previously PrEP had only been accessible in Australia via research trials such as PrEPX or through an “off-label” prescription at a cost of around $1000 per month, though cheaper generic versions were available from overseas.
“Ultimately PrEP provides another choice for people to protect themselves from HIV,” Associate Professor Stoové said.
“The recommendation from PBAC will ensure Australia continues to lead on evidence-based combination prevention approaches to HIV.”