With 3250 gay men diagnosed in 2013, the highest figure for decades, men who have sex with men (MSM) remain the most at risk to HIV infections.
PrEP is a combination of emtricitabine and tenofovir; both of which are already widely used in HIV treatment. Several studies have shown that this daily combination, when properly adhered to, can reduce the risk of HIV infection by up to 92% in men who have sex with men (MSM) and in heterosexuals at increased risk of HIV infection, including those in serodiscordant relationships. Based on this evidence the FDA approved the treatment for use as PrEP in the USA in 2012. It is also available in France and Canada.
Despite FDA approval, campaigns by various groups and evidence to support the use of ARV medicines there is currently no publicly funded PrEP in any of the four UK nations. Unless the NHS does decide to fund the medication those wishing to use PrEP must fund it privately.
It has not currently been licensed in Europe. However, due to the fact that these drugs are already licensed as medicines doctors are able to prescribe the treatment as PrEP (off-label) under a private prescription which means those who wish to use PrEP must fund the treatment themselves.
Dr Alona Courtney, a qualified medical doctor and the founder and CEO of DrugsDirect.com said: “The cost of private prescription medicines can vary dramatically. This is a little known fact with most people assuming that the price you are quoted by one pharmacy is exactly the same price you will pay in another; this, unfortunately, isn’t the case. Our business model advocates fair access to medicines for all which is why we offer to dispense private prescriptions at trade-price plus a professional dispensing fee. We have decided to make PrEP available at trade-price because we recognise that there is a significant need and we would like to help those who wish to access the medication in order to protect themselves. “
Overall, the number of people living with HIV in the UK continues to increase and the number living with undiagnosed HIV remains high. The use of PrEP is considered to be a valuable tool in preventing the further increase of HIV. The Terrence Higgins Trust is advocating PrEP because ‘it has the potential to prevent new infections among some of those at greatest risk of acquiring HIV’.
Unfortunately where there is a need there is also often a scam with PrEP being advertised on dubious internet sites for a fraction of the cost. Dr Alona commented: “Whether individuals get their prescription for PrEP from DrugsDirect.com or another registered pharmacy in the UK, we urge people to heed caution. We have seen examples where PrEP is being made available on the internet without the need for a prescription and at a fraction of the trade-price. It is important that people are vigilant, use their common sense and only access medications from a pharmacy which is regulated by the GPhC and MHRA. The reality is they could be putting their lives at risk. “
Those wishing to access PrEP will need a private prescription from their doctor. Dr Alona advises that anyone who is in an intimate relationship with someone who is HIV positive wishing to access PrEP should speak to their GP or a HIV specialist for advice. PrEP can then be ordered online via the DrugsDirect PrEP website. Upon receipt of their original doctor’s prescription, the PrEP medication will be dispensed and dispatched by the pharmacist, on a monthly basis, and delivered directly to the patient in discrete packaging. The Responsible Pharmacist at DrugsDirect.com is also available to discuss any concerns patients may have regarding PrEP treatment and any side-effects they may be experience.
Notes to editors:
*PrEP medication is available from DrugsDirect.com at trade-price, providing the patient has a DrugsDirect Dispensing Card. Without the Annual Dispensing Card, Drugs Direct will charge trade-price plus ten per cent to cover the professional fee to legally dispense and dispatch this private prescription medicine.
For more information visit: http://www.drugsdirect.com/pre-exposure-prophyiaxis/