Promiscuous English gay men who want PrEP are taking life-saving drugs from the mouths of cancer patients and condemning older people to blindness.
What total crap. But that’s the very clear message you will get if you read the Daily Mail or The Times today.
The NHS is against this, saying that offering PrEP will cost £20million ($27million €24million) a year.
Funding the ‘promiscuity pill’, the Daily Mail claims, will stop older people getting ‘vital cataract surgery’ at £800 an eye, ‘that enables patients to leave their homes unaided and recognize their loved ones’ faces’ again.
The Times argues it will prevent the NHS from paying for a drug that helps children with cystic fibrosis breathe.
It sounds convincing, doesn’t it? After all, the NHS can’t pay for everything. Tough decisions must be made.
But actually, it makes no economic sense whatsoever. And here’s why.
The government can afford PrEP
Firstly, the £20million a year figure is wrong. It’s based on providing the drug at £400 a month to 10,000 people.
In fact, that’s the ‘rate card’ for Truvada, the PrEP drug. Nobody pays rate card. The NHS can and will haggle. And when the drug comes off patent in 2018, the cost will plummet.
And let nobody tell you it’s an either/or. It’s a political decision.
If we decided to put the public good first, we could fully fund every lifesaving treatment we wanted. There’s plenty of money.
The government could refuse to leave the EU.
Brexit’s economic slowdown, even if we don’t go into recession, is going to lead to lower tax receipts for the Treasury. Just 0.4% slower growth costs us billions.
We could pay for every cataract operation, PrEP and the latest cancer drugs and still buy a bottle of champagne for everyone in the country with the money we are wasting on Brexit.
Too controversial? Ok, just commit to building a third runway at Heathrow. Every month we delay that decision, because of political cowardice, costs the UK economy £2billion and endless tax receipts.
Of course, the government won’t do that. But that’s the point. It’s their decision. Gay and bi men aren’t the ones robbing people of life-saving or life-improving treatment. They are.
There is also plenty we can do as the British public to pay for these drugs too.
If we kept all the appointments we make at GP surgeries and go to Accident and Emergency only when appropriate, we would save the NHS enough to fund all of it.
PrEP saves money
And the anti-PrEP argument is stupid on a whole other level.
Truth is, PrEP will actually save the NHS money long term.
In this respect, it works like the flu vaccine. You give it to people most likely to get influenza. And because most of them then don’t end up getting flu, they protect not just themselves but those around them.
PrEP intervenes with precisely that group who are most likely to get HIV. By protecting them, you also prevent them passing on the virus.
The end result is far less HIV and therefore far less chance of everyone getting infected whether they are on PrEP or not. In fact, potentially, an HIV-free generation.
Leaving aside the human aspects and the health benefits, there is a huge economic benefit. Everyone we prevent getting this virus saves the NHS £380,000 – the lifetime cost of treating them.
In choosing to fund PrEP, we are not suffocating children. Nor are we choosing the ‘lifestyles’ of irresponsible ‘dirty gays’ who can’t keep their cocks in their pants over the lives of cancer patients.
Make no mistake about it. That’s what two national newspapers claimed today. And it’s pure 1980s homophobia.
Instead, we are putting people first and creating a permanently healthier Britain, reducing long-term pressure on the NHS.
The High Court ruling doesn’t actually force the NHS to fund PrEP. It says it should be considered by the responsible committee to see if it is cost effective.
There’s still a battle ahead, including an appeal by the NHS against yesterday’s court ruling.
But in the arguments ahead, let’s remember that in asking for PrEP, we are helping to improve the nation’s health to everyone’s benefit. And in refusing it, the government is putting it’s own agenda above the true interests of the public.