Pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, is a medication containing two anti-retrovirals which reduce the risk of HIV infection. It is designed as a ‘preventative’, ideal for use by people who are HIV negative, but at high risk of contracting the virus.
Under the recent PrEPX study conducted at AMREP, PrEP was provided to 3200 Victorians to test its efficacy in reducing the spread of infection. Outcomes from the study were extremely positive, demonstrating that PrEP is highly effective if taken daily.
The PrEPX study was sponsored by the Victorian Department of Health & Human Services and co-sponsored by Alfred Health and the Victorian Aids Council. It was led by Associate Professor Edwina Wright from the Monash & Alfred Department of Infectious Diseases/Burnet Institute and conducted at the Alfred Medical Research & Education Precinct (AMREP) in Melbourne.
Following the PrEPX study, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee approved the drug in February, clearing the way for its listing on the PBS from April 1 this year, a move announced by Federal Health Minister, The Hon Greg Hunt MP, in mid-March.
Previously, PrEP had only been accessible to Australians through trials like PrEPX or via ‘off label’ prescription at a cost of around $1000 a month. Now, patients will be able to obtain the drug for $39.50 per script, or $6.30 for concession card holders.
Chad Hughes, Burnet Institute Deputy Program Director, Disease Elimination, welcomed the move as an important step forward for HIV prevention in Australia and one of the most significant advances in HIV transmission Australia has ever seen.
“It’s great news that the approval for PrEP has been expedited,” he said. “We know that PrEP works, and that access to the drug will help drive down rates of HIV in population groups which have seen increased transmission rates over recent years.
“Now, it’s about getting as many people onto that prevention method as possible, and as required, in the shortest possible time.”