Calls to give HIV drugs on NHS


Demands are being made to provide a drug which prevents HIV on the NHS in Scotland.
The drug can prevent HIV in people who are at high risk of developing the virus.
Legal fights have already taken place in England over who should have to pay for the drug; the NHS or local authorities.
Experts say the drug is so effective it can be a “game-changer” in preventing those at risk from contracting the debilitating virus.
The Scottish government now wants its makers to apply for the drug to be assessed so that it could be used in Scotland.
The NHS in England has already become involved in a funding row around the drug. While it says it believes local authorities should pay for the drug, which is called Truvada, because they are the ones with responsibility for preventative public health, the Court of Appeal disagreed.
According to estimates, 14,000 people could be eligible to get the drug which could make the difference to them contracting HIV or not.
In Scotland, the Scottish Medicines Consortium assesses all drugs to be used within the NHS. Therefore, it is hoped it could be available for use in Scotland in the near future, with no arguments about funding.
The Scottish government has already contacted the drugs makers Gilead to strongly suggest they make an application there. It will then be able to move forward with a decision about whether to approve it for use within the Scottish NHS.
Scotland will also have to come to a ruling about whether the drug is cost effective. For patients buying privately, it costs around £450 a month.
The Prep pill works by protecting cells in the body and preventing the HIV virus from multiplying if it should enter the body.
Research has shown that taking these small, blue pills once every day can reduce the risk of contracting HIV by as much as 86 per cent.
The drug is used elsewhere in the world, including the US, Canada, Australia and France to protect gay men from the virus.
Currently, there are understood to be 100,000 people living with HIV within the UK.
According to officials at Health Protection Scotland, there are 359 new diagnoses of HIV every year.
However, George Valiotis, the chief executive of the charity HIV Scotland, said: “People who take Prep – they don’t get HIV.”