Australia a step closer to ending HIV transmission with PBS listing of prevention drug

Paul Hayes

21/03/2018 11:59:13 AM

The HIV-prevention pill PrEP will now be more financially accessible to people at risk of HIV transmission after officially being added to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

PrEP patients will pay a maximum of $39.50 per prescription, with concessional patients paying $6.40. (Image: AP)
PrEP patients will pay a maximum of $39.50 per prescription, with concessional patients paying $6.40. (Image: AP)

‘PrEP [pre-exposure prophylaxis] is a medical innovation that will save Australian lives and the decision to list it is one of the most significant advancements in HIV transmission Australia has ever seen,’ Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said. ‘It puts Australia in reach of being one of the first countries in the world to end the transmission of HIV.
‘The $180 million listing means up to 32,000 patients each year will pay a maximum of only $39.50 per script, with concessional patients paying just $6.40. Without subsidy, patients would pay $2496 per year for this medicine.
‘Access to PrEP will not only benefit gay and bisexual men but will also drive down rates of HIV in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, migrant communities and other population groups which have seen increased transmission rates over recent years.’
The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee approved PrEP for listing on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) in February. The once-daily pill, which is said to be 99% effective in preventing HIV transmission, will be available on the PBS from 1 April.
‘Having PrEP available at an affordable price through the PBS is a huge advance,’ Darryl O’Donnell, Chief Executive of the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations, said. ‘This will drive a substantial reduction in transmission and allow us to turbo-charge the Australian HIV response.
‘This announcement continues Australian leadership on HIV, with Australia having been the first country in the world to commit to a goal of virtually eliminating HIV transmission, by 2020.’
GP and sexual health advocate Dr George Forgan-Smith told newsGP in February that access to PrEP will allow men who have sex with men to retain control over their own sexual health.
‘You have to think of it from the perspective of a gay man who has lived with 30 years of fear. Thirty years of fear of HIV, where we have been told – we have been lectured to – that nothing but condoms is the only way to protect your health,’ he said.
‘Condom usage still puts a lot of trust between the sexual partners. PrEP means that you are in control of your serostatus. If you know that you took the tablet in the morning, you will know that you are protected whether the condom goes on or not in the evening.
‘So that gives people a sense of control, which I think is fantastic.’

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Therese Ryan   23/03/2018 10:29:37 AM

It would be beneficial to follow up this article with information about where GPs may access education about PreP prescribing and monitoring of patients.

Natalia Rode   23/03/2018 12:02:34 PM

Hi Therese, ASHM has produced some good education around PrEP which you might find helpful:

Danielle McMullen   4/04/2018 7:55:25 AM

The wording in the subheading/caption and throughout the article is a bit misleading - patients will pay $39.50 per script, not per year.

newsGP   4/04/2018 9:10:15 AM

Thanks, Danielle. We have amended the text to more clearly state that patients will pay $39.50 per prescription. Thank you.