IMAGE: Burnet Institute Head, HIV Research, Associate Professor Mark Stoové
Approval by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) for the use of the HIV antiretroviral drug Truvada in Australia has been welcomed as an important first step by Burnet Institute’s Associate Professor Mark Stoové.
The next step, Associate Professor Stoové believes, should be for the drug to be subsidised through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, as soon as possible.
Truvada is used in pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) 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 Truvada is highly effective if taken daily.
Up to now, the drug has only been accessible in Australia via research trials or through an “off-label” prescription at a cost of around $1000 per month, though cheaper generic versions are available from overseas.
“It’s wonderful news that the science has translated through to the TGA approving Truvada for prevention because the trials clearly demonstrate it’s highly effective,” Associate Professor Stoové, Burnet’s Head, HIV Research, said.
“This is a significant first step towards opening up access to PrEP in Australia that’s not off-label and provided offshore.
“The next major decision is whether it gets Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) listing, and that is the real clincher in terms of expanding accessibility and coverage of PrEP as a prevention tool.
“At the moment on-script costs for Truvada are prohibitively expensive, so it’s really important if we’re going to get coverage sufficiently high to impact HIV that the accessibility of PrEP is supported by public subsidies through Medicare.”
It’s understood the manufacturer Gilead Pharmaceuticals could apply as early as July to have Truvada listed on the PBS.