The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) today rejected submissions to add the HIV preventative drug Truvada as use for PrEP to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).
The news is seen as a massive setback to ending HIV in Australia by 2020, delaying Truvada being listed on the PBS by at least 18 months.
Truvada is an antiretroviral drug used by HIV negative people as part of the HIV preventative pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medical treatment. Because it is not available on the PBS, it effectively costs people hundreds of dollars per prescription.
PBAC rejected the application by Gilead Sciences, saying the cost of making PrEP available to all at-risk people was too high.
Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO) chief executive officer Darryl O’Donnell said the announcement restricts access to PrEP among those who need it.
“People are needlessly getting HIV while we wait for access to this prevention pill,” he said.
“The Australian Government has made a world-leading commitment to virtually end HIV transmission in Australia by 2020. We can do this together if we have access to the best prevention tools of which PrEP is pivotal.
“We won’t reach the Australian Government’s goal without PrEP being subsidised through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.”
HIV Foundation Queensland is extremely disappointed.
“We feel that this is a step backwards in Queensland’s fight against HIV,” chair Dr Darren Russell said.
Brisbane has seen a significant reduction in new HIV cases this year, with notifications down more than 30%, and rapid HIV testing across Queensland for the period of April-June 2016 saw 1342 tests performed – an increase of 29% over the same period in 2015.
“For Brisbane to be showing such a large reduction in new HIV cases without wide scale PrEP uptake demonstrates increased awareness and commitment to the cause,” Dr Russell said.
“PrEP is the missing link to ending HIV in Queensland, and it’s a shame that the Federal Government does not recognise this.
“We have evidence that the community is doing their part to end HIV through increased testing, and the Queensland State Government has also shown their support by rolling out a PrEP trial to eligible participants.
“The Federal Government is letting the community down.”
Gilead Sciences will now have to make a full resubmission later this year for PrEP to be reconsidered at a March 2017 PBAC meeting.