Wales is to receive the game-changing Prep HIV drug, as part of a three-year trial.
This is despite the fact that the All Wales Medicines Strategy Group (AWMSG) has previously advised the Welsh government to oppose the funding of Prep due to its lack of cost-effectiveness.
AWMSG had stated previously that there were “several uncertainties and limitations” in the economic model provided by the manufacturer of the drug.
But Health Secretary Vaughan Gething has announced that during the research period “those for whom the drug is clinically appropriate can access it”.
It is expected that the trial will get underway in the summer, if all hurdles to the process can be effectively negotiated.
Test on Prep have found that the medicine is highly effective when used with the appropriate patients and in the correct dosages.
But many experts completely disagree with the verdict of the authorities in Wales.
The Terrence Higgins Trust branded the AWMSG recommendation as ”short-sighted,” asserting that Prep could save the NHS money in the longer term.
And the aforementioned Gething agreed that Prep can effectively reduce the rate of HIV infection when it is used appropriately, and particularly when preventative sexual health services are utilised in collaboration.
“The study will help us to learn how best to provide the preventative treatment to reduce risks of HIV transmission in Wales and answer some of the questions raised by the AWMSG around incidence rates. The AWMSG is a highly regarded, independent expert group. I acknowledge their advice that there are uncertainties regarding cost-effectiveness and that they have not recommended the drug for routine use within NHS Wales at this time,” Gething asserted.
It is believed that prescribing Prep to HIV patients in Wales will cost around £2.5 million annually.
Already utilised in the United States, Canada, Australia and France, evidence has suggested that the drug can reduce the incidence of infection by around 85%.
Stonewall Cymru, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans equality charity, has been campaigning for Prep to be made available on the NHS.
The charity’s Wales director, Andrew White, suggested that making the drug available on the health service in Wales should be considered a no-brainer, but that it should also be allied to effective preventative measures.
“This trial will allow Wales to protect those most at risk and given that it costs much more to treat than to prevent HIV, in the long-term this will also save NHS Wales money. Of course, Prep is not the sole answer to tackling HIV transmission. This preventative measure should be accompanied by high-quality sex and relationships education.”
Neath AM Jeremy Miles, patron of LGBT Labour Wales, echoed this sentiment.
“We must take all appropriate action against preventable HIV transmission and the Welsh Government is listening to clinical experts who know the positive impact Prep could have alongside other measures to encourage safer sex.”
HIV is a major problem in Wales, with around 150 new cases diagnosed on an annual basis.