The high court in Britain ruled this week to overturn the patent extension on HIV med Truvada, which is also used as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent HIV. As Gay Star News reports, generic versions of the tablet could cost nearly 90 percent less.
PrEP has not been approved by the National Health Service (NHS), the United Kingdom’s national health care system. A trial to assess the risks is ongoing, but it is believed that the high cost of the med influences whether people support approving Truvada as PrEP.
Truvada (tenofovir disoproxil fumarate/emtricitabine) is manufactured by Gilead Sciences. The patent was to end in July, but the pharmaceutical company extended its exclusivity until 2020. The high court ruled against that move, as did a court in Ireland.
“We welcome this court decision,” said Deborah Gold, chief executive of National AIDS Trust, the leading AIDS charity in the United Kingdom, in a press release. “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.”
Gold continued: “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.”
Meanwhile, in the United States, a national plan to #BreakThePatent launched this summer by a group of activists called the PrEP4All Collaboration. For more about that effort, read “Here’s How We Can Get Universal Access to PrEP” and Peter Staley’s blog post “Privilege and Profit Corrupt the PrEP Access Debate.”
For background on PrEP in England, read “ ‘Shock and Disbelief’ That PrEP Won’t Be Widely Available in England” from March 2016, “England’s National Health Service Has Ability to Provide PrEP, Says Court” from November 2016 and “U.K. HIV Diagnoses Fall 18% in One Year” from October 2017.
And to learn more about PrEP, check out the POZ Basics page about HIV Prevention.