Hopes rise for “game changer” HIV drug use in Scotland

National Aids Trust director of strategy Yusef Azad outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London after the High Court ruling today. Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

National Aids Trust director of strategy Yusef Azad outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London after the High Court ruling today. Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

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Scottish ministers are to seek approval as soon as possible for the use of a “game changer” HIV drug which the High Court in London ruled yesterday should be funded by NHS England south of the Border.

Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is a highly-effective anti-retroviral drug used to stop HIV from becoming established in the event of transmission.

When taken consistently, it has been shown to reduce the risk of HIV infection in people who are at high risk by more than 90 per cent.

The High Court decision is a victory for health campaigners who called for the drug to be made available by the NHS south of the Border.

It was brought by the National Aids Trust with backing from the Local Government Association, which represents councils in England.

However, NHS England said it would appeal against the ruling that it does have the power to commission PrEP, which could cost £10-20 million a year. The body argued the drug was not its responsibility and it was for local councils to fund “preventative” health treatment.

By contrast, Scottish health secretary Shona Robison said she would encourage the drug’s manufacturer to apply for it to be approved for use in Scotland as soon as the European Commission gave the go-ahead.

She said: “On 22 July, the European Medicines Agency recommended granting a marketing authorisation for Truvada’s use as PrEP.

“This opinion will now be sent to the European Commission for the adoption of a decision to change the marketing authorisation, and we would urge the European Commission to do this quickly.

“As soon as Truvada is licenced for PrEP, we will call on its manufacturer to submit an application to the Scottish Medicines Consortium, at a fair price, so its routine use in Scotland can be considered as quickly as possible.”

The High Court decision has no bearing in Scotland as health is devolved. The charity HIV Scotland predicts a smoother path to introduction in Scotland because it was already geared up for the drug.

Chief executive George Valiotis said: “The main issues in England have come down to processes and responsibility.

“In Scotland, we already have processes in place and we anticipate it being much more straightforward.”

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