NHS ‘has power to fund Prep HIV drug’

The Court of Appeal has ruled that the NHS in England has the power to fund a drug which prevents HIV infection in people at high risk of the virus.

NHS England had previously said that local authorities should provide the pre-exposure prophylaxis drug – known as Prep – because they are responsible for preventative health.

But councils insisted they had too little money.

An estimated 14,000 people would be eligible for Prep in England.

NHS England said the judgment confirmed that it had the ability, but not the obligation, to fund Prep.

An NHS spokesman said it would now formally consider whether to fund the drug.

“Second, we will discuss with local authorities how NHS-funded Prep medication could be administered by the sexual health teams they commission.

“Third, we will immediately ask the drug manufacturer to reconsider its currently proposed excessively high pricing, and will also explore options for using generics.”

Prevention power

In August, the High Court told NHS England it could fund the drug because it was wrong to classify Prep as preventative, given that it acts in the body to treat infection.

This came after a successful challenge by the National Aids Trust (NAT) and other campaigners.

Deborah Gold, chief executive of NAT, said they were delighted by the Court of Appeal judgement.

“HIV is a critical issue in the UK where over 4,000 people acquire HIV every year.

“Prep works, it saves money, and most importantly it has the power to prevent HIV acquisition for thousands of people, at the same time as beginning to end the HIV epidemic.

“This judgement brings that possibility one step closer.”

She said she hoped NHS England would now make “a balanced and evidence-based decision on Prep”.

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