Britain’s High Court today ruled to overturn pharmaceutical company Gilead Science’s patent extension on Truvada. The HIV medication is also used for PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis). When taken as advised, this stops HIV negative people acquiring HIV.
PrEP is not yet available on the NHS in England and Wales. The NHS is currently conducting a trial to test its cost efficiency. It is still in the process of recruiting around 10,000 high-risk participants for the ongoing trial.
Opponents of the NHS supplying Truvda say the medication is expensive. They point to the fact branded Truvada could cost the NHS up to £350 per month per person.
The cost of PrEP and the NHS
Supporters of PrEP say this is a price worth paying given its effectiveness. They argue the NHS has to pay more to provide a lifetime of HIV treatment to someone with HIV.
Currently, the NHS is only allowed to supply branded Truvada from Gilead.
Truvada was due to come off patent in July 2017, but Gilead extended its exclusivity until 2020 by a supplementary protection certificate (SPC). This prohibited smaller pharma companies from selling generic versions of the drug in the UK.
Generic versions could cost from around 80-90% cheaper, depending on the manufacturer. The NHS is often able to negotiate cheap deals because it buys in bulk.
The High Court today ruled against Gilead Sciences. The court’s decision follows a similar ruling in Ireland last year. There, those with HIV and or seeking Post-Exposure Prophylaxis treatment can use Truvada. Ireland does not yet offer Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis.
‘This represents a huge cost saving’
Many HIV and sexual health advocates welcomed today’s decision.
Deborah Gold, chief executive of NAT (National AIDS Trust) said: ‘We welcome this court decision, which overturns the patent extension for Truvada.
‘The decision will mean that unbranded versions of the drug can be legally prescribed. This represents a huge cost saving to buying a drug that would save public money, even at full price.
‘We continue to urge the NHS in England to commission PrEP by April 2019, as the current trial is not reaching everyone at risk. Indeed some have acquired HIV after being turned away from clinics whose trial places are full.
‘With the generic, unbranded version of the drug available at a fraction of the cost, the pressure increases on NHS England to begin routine commissioning, and make PrEP available to all who need it, urgently.’
‘I would urge NHS England to seize this moment’
Matthew Hodson, Chief Executive of HIV information organization NAM, also welcomed the judgement.
‘PrEP was already cost effective for people at high risk of HIV at Gilead’s price. This ruling should mean that much cheaper generic versions can be purchased by the NHS, ultimately saving even more money.
‘I would urge NHS England to seize this moment and swiftly rollout PrEP to all those who need it. This can be done in parallel to the existing trial.
‘PrEP has contributed to the significant declines that we have recently seen in HIV diagnoses among gay and bisexual men.’
Gay Star News has approached Gilead for comment.