The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC), announced today, that it will recommend the listing of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) – a major step forward in making this powerful HIV prevention strategy available and affordable to all Australians.
While the finer practical details regarding how PrEP will be made available throughout Australia are still to come, here are the facts so far and the choices available to you based on today’s milestone PBAC decision.
What is PrEP?
If you’re HIV negative, PrEP is a powerful strategy that uses medication to protect you against HIV, and it can be accessed now via clinical studies in almost all Australian states and territories. If you don’t live in a state or territory with a study currently running, or if the study running in your state or territory is full, you can see your GP about obtaining a prescription and importing it yourself at an affordable cost from overseas.
“…PrEP will likely be available in the next three to six months to purchase at an affordable price in Australian pharmacies with a prescription from your local doctor.”
Thanks to the positive outcome today from PBAC, PrEP will likely be available in the next three to six months to purchase at an affordable price in Australian pharmacies with a prescription from your local doctor.
In 2016, the first PrEP medication to be listed and approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) for sale in Australia was Truvada manufactured by Gilead Sciences. However, the drug, until now, was not recommended for listing on the PBS, making it largely unavailable to most Australians due to the excessive cost (roughly $10,000 per year).
Thankfully today though, PrEP was successful in being recommended by the PBAC for listing on the PBS. The PBAC is an independent expert body appointed by the Australian Government. Its reason for recommending PrEP on the PBS (the list of government subsidised medicines) is reported as:
“The PBAC recommended the listing of tenofovir with emtricitabine for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in certain patients at medium to high risk of HIV infection. The PBAC was satisfied that tenofovir with emtricitabine provides, for some patients, a significant reduction in the risk of sexually-acquired HIV, in combination with other safe sex practices, compared with safe sex practices alone. The PBAC’s recommendation for listing was based on, among other matters, its assessment of the cost-effectiveness of PrEP based on the model developed by the Kirby Institute.”
When will subsidised PrEP be available?
Although a recommendation by PBAC does not lead to an automatic listing on the PBS, the Australian Government has already committed to honouring PBAC’s recommendation in a timely manner.
LGBTI healthcare and HIV/AIDS organisations are expected to encourage an expedited decision in the interests of the health of all Australians at risk of acquiring HIV.
How much will it cost?
If the recommendation is agreed to by the Federal Government, PrEP will have the same co-payment as any other prescription drug, which is $39.50 for a 30 days supply for most people or $6.40 for those with a health concession card. And any doctor can prescribe up to three months supply of PrEP at a time through the PBS.
What to do now?
What does this mean for HIV negative people not currently taking PrEP and people living with HIV?
If you’re HIV negative and not currently taking PrEP, it’s important to employ a sexual health strategy, whether that be condoms and lube, knowing whether your sexual partner has an undetectable viral load, or Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) when necessary. It’s also important to get tested at least every six months.
If you’re considering PrEP, you may be able to access it via a study (depending on which state or territory you are located in), and all Australians can import generic PrEP from overseas via the Personal Importation Scheme with a prescription from a GP. However, it is possible that some of these studies will cease enrolment soon. Otherwise, in the near future, thanks to PBAC’s recommendation today, PrEP will very likely be available at a subsidised cost in Australian pharmacies.
If you’re living with HIV, you can continue to maintain your own good health and protect your HIV negative partners by maintaining an undetectable viral load which has been sustained for six months or more.
What does this mean for people currently taking PrEP?
If you’re currently enrolled in a PrEP study, you should continue taking your PrEP as prescribed by your doctor.
Studies in some states and territories across Australia may be approaching their completion dates soon. Further information regarding how study participants will be able to continue accessing PrEP is expected to be announced soon. You can join Emen8’s Facebook Page to stay up to date with news and announcements as they unfold.
“…you should continue taking your PrEP as prescribed by your doctor.”
If you’re currently importing generic PrEP from overseas, you can continue to obtain PrEP in this manner up until it is available at a subsidised cost in Australian pharmacies — hopefully very soon!
How to get PrEP
Wherever you’re based in Australia, PrEP access options are available to you.
- How to get PrEP in Adelaide and South Australia
- How to get PrEP in Brisbane and Queensland
- How to get PrEP in Canberra and the Australian Capital Territory
- How to get PrEP in Darwin and the Northern Territory
- How to get PrEP in Hobart and Tasmania
- How to get PrEP in Melbourne and Victoria
- How to get PrEP in Perth and Western Australia
- How to get PrEP in Sydney and New South Wales