Cameron calls for fast decision on national HIV prevention drug

Prime minister David Cameron has called for a fast decision on introduction of a national HIV prophylaxis programme using Gilead’s Truvada (emtricitabine+tenofovir) on England’s National Health Service.

So-called pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is possible if individuals take Truvada, but NHS England in March said it was scaling back plans to introduce a national scheme providing the drug to at-risk groups, instead favouring a few pilot clinics.

The decision to axe a national PrEP programme sparked fury from HIV patient groups, and NHS England is in further talks with them ahead of a final decision at the end of the month.

Cameron was asked about the matter by Mike Freer, Conservative MP for Finchley and Golders Green, in prime minister’s questions in Parliament on Wednesday.

Freer asked Cameron to meet with him and HIV charities to review the “unacceptable decision”.

Cameron told MPs: “My understanding is that NHS England is considering its commissioning responsibility. I want it to reach a decision on this quickly—this month, if possible—because there is no doubt that there is a rising rate of infection, and that these treatments can help and make a difference.

“We are planning trial sites that are already under way, and we are investing £2 million to support them over the next two years. But he is right to raise this, and I will make sure he gets the meetings he needs to make progress with it.”

Ian Green, chief executive at Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “We welcome David Cameron committing NHS England to making a long overdue decision on HIV prevention game changer, PrEP, this month. Thank you to Mike Freer for continuing to champion this life changing HIV prevention tool.

“We urgently need NHS England to make PrEP available for those most at risk. Every day this is delayed, seven men who have sex with men are infected with HIV.”

NHS England reviewed the decision to axe the national programme following a legal challenge by the charity the National AIDS Trust.

The decision to cut back national plans was made because local authorities, not health services, are supposed to be responsible for commissioning preventative services, NHS England said earlier this week.

Related stories:

NHS may reconsider axeing HIV prevention drug

England cuts back plans for Truvada in HIV prevention

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