Researchers from the Kirby Institute at UNSW Sydney welcome the listing of co-formulated tenofovir and emtricitabine, as HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) on the pharmaceutical benefits scheme (PBS) in March.
The Federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt MP, made the announcement at Taylor Square in Darlinghurst, NSW, on 21 March, accompanied by the Kirby Institute’s Professor Andrew Grulich, who is co-principal investigator on the EPIC-NSW trial; the largest clinical trial of PrEP in Australia. The announcement was made just three days after Professor David Cooper, who was Professor Grulich’s co-principal investigator, passed away.
EPIC-NSW has demonstrated a significant reduction in HIV transmissions in NSW during the period of the trial, which commenced in 2016.
“If taken correctly, PrEP is close to 100 per cent effective in the prevention of HIV”, said Professor Grulich. “It has been a game changer for HIV prevention, but until now, the cost has been prohibitive, limiting access for those who need it. We welcome the PBS listing as it will allow those at risk of contracting HIV to access PrEP, Australia-wide.”
Previously, most people accessed the drug through clinical trials, including through EPIC-NSW and other state-based studies. The PBS listing will mean that patients will pay a much more accessible $39.50 per month nationally, or $6.40 for concession card holders. The subsidy will come into effect on 1 April 2018.
The listing comes ahead of the Federal Government’s Eighth National HIV Strategy 2018–2022, which is being finalised. It will provide the framework for a dramatic reduction in new infections and improvements in health outcomes in Australia.
“This is a significant step forward in Australia’s response to HIV and sets us in good stead towards the virtual elimination of HIV transmissions,” said Professor Grulich.
Professor Grulich also paid tribute to his co-principal investigator, colleague and friend, David Cooper. “This announcement is an opportunity to remember David’s significant contribution to HIV research. He was involved in the development of every HIV therapeutic intervention that has been on the market, and it is fitting that this government endorsement should be announced at this time. He was proud of what EPIC-NSW had achieved, and the PBS listing really solidifies how important this trial was.”