What is PrEP, the Controversial HIV Drug?

By Gary Cutlack on at

A High Court judge is about to deliver a ruling on the use of HIV drug PrEP, the not-far-off-a-miracle drug that can reduce transmission of HIV by up to 90 per cent in those taking it. For a cost to the NHS of around £400 a month.

So far, use of PrEP in the UK is limited to a few hundred people on a medical trial. NHS England says it's a preventative treatment -- as hinted at by its full name pre-exposure prophylaxis -- and the decision to prescribe it is therefore down to local authorities rather than the NHS budgets, as its the councils' responsibility to tackle preventative things.

PrEP's clever trick is to interrupt the multiplication process of the virus, and it's already being used in the US, Canada, Australia and France. It's more than a little bit controversial, as it's primary use scenario is to help gay men who are having unprotected sex with HIV-positive partners to stay safe. So while it helps the most at risk members of the community, opponents say it encourages unsafe behaviour.

The NHS, meanwhile, said it shouldn't be asked to fund its use, as that will open the floodgates for the possibility of having other preventative measures added to the prescription database.

And that ruling has just come in -- the judge has now said there's no reason the NHS shouldn't pay for the drug, which is quite a huge win for potential users and the National Aids Trust that took their claim to the courts. [BBC]

Image credit: Whatisprep


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