Burnet Institute senior HIV researchers regard as a ‘minor setback’ the decision by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Council (PBAC) to defer a recommendation on the subsidisation of HIV prevention drug, PrEP.
PrEP, which stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis, is used by people who are HIV negative and at high risk of contracting HIV to lower their chances of becoming infected.
At its July meeting, PBAC considered applications from Gilead Sciences and Mylan Australia for their respective PrEP treatments to be subsidised through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).
PBAC said it wants further information on the cost-effectiveness of the treatment models and number of people likely to use PrEP.
Twelve months ago a submission by Gilead for its PrEP medication Truvada was rejected on the basis of a lack of cost-effectiveness and concerns about adherence.
Burnet Head of Public Health, Associate Professor Mark Stoové said he was disappointed with the deferral, but expects approval to occur sooner rather than later.
“I would anticipate that a recommendation for the listing of PrEP on the PBS will not be too far off into the future,“ Associate Professor Stoové said.
“What this means in the interim, however, is that we will continue to have inequitable access to a highly effective HIV prevention tool in Australia.
“Access will largely be limited to large demonstration projects in capital cities around the country.
“This means that there will be many people who would benefit from this HIV prevention drug who won’t be able to access it.”
The leader of the PrEPX demonstration project, Associate Professor Edwina Wright, told ashm.org.au: “PBAC’s decision to defer a recommendation on subsidising PrEP products from Gilead Sciences and Mylan is a minor setback.”
“Australia is leading the world with PrEP in terms of its roll out, its community attitudes towards and knowledge of PrEP and in the strength of the relationships between government, community, activists, peak organisations, clinicians, scientists and researchers around PrEP.”
Currently, PrEP is available in Australia per private prescription at a cost of around $10,000 for a year’s supply, or via research trials such as PrEPX, and through online pharmacies that provide cheaper generic versions from overseas.
Listing on the PBS would have reduced the cost of PrEP to most patients in Australia to $38.80 per script, and $6.30 for concession cardholders.