A High Court ruling has rejected NHS England’s claim that it is not legally responsible to provide the HIV prevention drug PrEP. NHS England now have to give this drug due consideration under the NHS act 2006.
HIV is a virus that attacks the immune system, making you unable to fight off incoming infections. The pre-exposure prophylaxis drug, PrEP, is a preventative drug that the NHS claims is not its responsibility to fund. The NHS providing this drug could help many people who are at risk of contracting HIV.
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PrEP can reduce the risk of infection by up to 86%, which is a huge step forward. It does not come cheap, however, with funding likely to cost between £10-£20 million a year. However, it has been claimed that, in the long run, providing the drug will save money as it would lower the number of people needing treatment for HIV and associated illnesses.
The decision from the High Court, which was made public last week, ruled that NHS England has the capacity to fund PrEP and help the approximate 14,000 people that could be eligible for the drug. This ruling is because PrEP acts to treat an infection and is therefore not classed as a prevention drug. When the drug is taken daily, it can stop the HIV virus copying itself if HIV is contracted. If HIV is unable to copy itself to reproduce, it cannot establish itself within the body and cannot cause infection.
The NHS has appealed this decision when it was previously made by Mr Justice Green, a Southampton Alumnus. They seem apprehensive to fund the drug as it means, they claim, that they cannot fund nine other projects, including one to help children with cystic fibrosis.
This seems to be a battle that is far from over, with HIV affecting thousands of people in England alone. The NHS claims that preventative measures should be paid for by local communities and that condoms and sexual health education should be pushed, but funding is not bountiful in that area either, with many local councils struggling to provide care. Even though condoms are cheap, they are not always used consistently and HIV rates are increasing in the UK every year.
The NHS has now claimed that they will consider funding the drug, helping not only the thousands at risk from HIV but also lessening the risks associated with ordering the drugs online. Ordering online from reputable pharmacies is convenient, however it means that many people are taking the drug without the proper kidney and related health checks.
With the range of projects that are in need of support from the NHS, this will be a huge decision not only for those in charge of the healthcare system but also for those at risk of contracting HIV.