Scotland is to become the first UK nation to fund a ‘game-changing’ HIV drug, the NHS has confirmed.
The Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) has agreed to find the provision of a drug known as Prep, which is found to reduce the risk of contracting HIV dramatically. Researchers have discovered that taking the drug on a daily basis can reduce the chances of infection in people who are a risk of developing HIV. The news means that Scotland will become the first UK country to provide Prep for those who are eligible for treatment.
Campaigners have welcomed the decision to find the drug, which they believe could benefit almost 2,000 people currently living in Scotland. The drug is sold under the brand name Truvada and the estimated monthly cost of treatment is around £450.
The drug is already licensed for those who have been diagnosed with HIV, but now it will be available as a preventative measure for those who have a higher than average risk of infection. Dr Alan MacDonald, chair of the SMC, said that Prep, combined with safe sex practices, can reduce the risk of contracting and spreading HIV significantly, which is a priority for the government in Scotland.
News of the decision has also gained support from the Terrence Higgins Trust Scotland and HIV Scotland.
Prep, pre-exposure prophylaxis, is a tiny blue pill, which protects the body’s cells and helps to prevent the virus from spreading if it does find a way into the body. If taken once-daily, studies suggest that it can reduce the risk of HIV infection by up to 86 percent. The drug is already available in the USA, France, Canada and Australia, and it is prescribed primarily for gay men who have the highest risk of HIV infection.
The SMC has also approved Kadcyla, a drug used to treat aggressive forms of breast cancer.