Since April 1, 2018, PrEP is available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) from any local pharmacy in Australia. It’s great for people with access to Medicare who can afford it… but that’s not everyone. Nevertheless, there are still ways to get affordable PrEP. This guide contains everything you need to know about buying PrEP online for personal importation.
In the past few years Australia has seen enormous uptake of PrEP as a highly effective HIV prevention strategy that combines using prescription medicine with regular sexual health testing. And it’s even more popular now there are new ways to use PrEP!
Buying PrEP on the PBS costs no more than $41.00 per month (or $6.60 with a concession), whereas buying PrEP online costs around $20 per month.
“…buying PrEP online costs around $20 per month.”
Personally importing PrEP may be a more affordable option for people who do or don’t have access to Medicare. Importing PrEP requires a bit of forward planning and comes with a few conditions we’ll explain in this guide.
Other cost saving options may be available for people with a concession, people who buy other PBS medicines, Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people, or people without access to Medicare. Discover more in How to buy PrEP – even if you can’t afford it. For anyone who can’t afford PrEP there are schemes that provide free PrEP — see further down for details.
Buying PrEP online for personal importation
You can buy PrEP online for personal importation whether you have access to Medicare or not. This is made possible by the Personal Importation Scheme from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), part of the Australian Government’s Department of Health.
Using the scheme involves having your pills posted to you from an overseas pharmacy. Getting a prescription (script) is an essential step for importing PrEP legally.
“You can buy PrEP online for personal importation whether you have access to Medicare or not.”
Using PrEP involves more than just getting a script — the PrEP program involves checking in with a doctor every three months for a comprehensive sexual health check-up. You’ll get a new script each check-up, which you can use to buy your next supply of PrEP. And before you’re close to running out of pills, it’s best to book in for your next appointment. Be sure to leave enough time to allow for delivery as it may take a few weeks for your PrEP to arrive.
Before importing PrEP, familiarise yourself with the Personal Importation Scheme’s rules. In summary, the scheme allows you to import PrEP when:
- the PrEP you are importing is for your own use; and
- the total quantity of PrEP imported does not exceed three months’ supply in any one shipment; and
- the total quantity of PrEP imported within a 12 month period does not exceed 15 months’ supply of PrEP
Online pharmacies and pricing
There are several online pharmacies that deliver PrEP to Australia, including some set up by community activists to help make PrEP affordable for everyone.
Some suggested by online PrEP communities are:
Whichever online pharmacy you choose, you’ll need to provide a scanned copy of your script. The pharmacy includes a copy in the parcel they ship to you. This helps Australian Border Force officers ensure you’re following the Personal Importation Scheme’s rules, avoiding any delays in you getting your PrEP.
Buying the right product
PrEP sold online can have different product names, such as Adco-Emtevir, Ricovir-EM, Tavin EM, Tenof EM, Tenvir-EM, or others.
The word ‘PrEP’ might not appear on the product label or on your script. That’s because the term ‘PrEP’ (which stands for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) refers to using medicine to prevent HIV, rather than a particular brand of medication.
Some versions of PrEP sold in Australian pharmacies as well as online could contain slightly different ingredients. These differences do not alter the effectiveness of PrEP in any way. Colour, shape and size of pills may also vary. To make sure you’re buying the right product, check it’s one of these formulations:
- Tenofovir Disoproxil Fumarate 300mg and Emtricitabine 200mg
- Tenofovir Disoproxil Maleate 300mg and Emtricitabine 200mg
- Tenofovir Disoproxil Phosphate 291mg and Emtricitabine 200mg
As long as you have a valid script, you can use it to buy any of these versions of PrEP. Pharmacies can dispense any version because all formulations are considered to have bio-equivalence — meaning for all intents and purposes, they are the same.
Products containing Tenofovir by itself, Emtricitabine by itself, or additional ingredients (such as Efavirenz, Elvitegravir, Cobicistat or Rilpirivine) are different and are not suitable for use as PrEP.
It’s important to note the TGA does not regulate medicines from overseas websites.
Payment and delivery
Websites for online pharmacies will guide you through the payment process — some may refer you to a payment portal. Prices are usually in US dollars but check before ordering. The total price you pay may vary due to changes in currency exchange rates.
Delivery is typically by courier. Some pharmacies provide a tracking number to track your order. Delivery times may vary — often between five and 10 working days, though this can take longer. Make sure you order well before you run out PrEP.
If you can’t afford PrEP, help is at hand through schemes offering free PrEP. These provide the medication for free but don’t cover the cost of seeing a doctor or getting pathology tests.
To get free PrEP, contact one of these organisations:
- Anywhere in Australia: PAN (PrEPaccessNOW)
- Australian Capital Territory: Meridian
- Western Australia: M Clinic
The schemes provide a coupon that gets you three months’ supply of PrEP delivered to your door for free. A valid prescription is always required.
Coupon schemes are made possible by Green Cross Pharmacy since 2015. Every PrEP purchase through Green Cross Pharmacy helps continue providing free PrEP for people who can’t afford it.
Help and support
For help with choosing PrEP, finding a doctor or buying PrEP, online communities provide support. Thousands of PrEP users across the country can offer suggestions and share experiences.
You can also reach out to local HIV/AIDS organisations for support and information wherever you are. See Emen8’s network for details in your state or territory.