Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is a drug used to protect against exposure to HIV. PrEP is currently unavailable through the HSE. Doctors can prescribe the drug. Truvada, the branded version costs around €400 per 30 pills. In December 2017 generic versions from Teva and Mylan were made available at a less costly price. Teva’s version is available at around €100. Many are purchasing PrEP at lower prices from the internet, but it is currently illegal to have medication imported by private courier or post, making them liable to be seized by customs which has happened in the past.
Gilead, the pharmaceutical company that has generated over €14 billion from Truvada are currently attempting to prevent generic versions of the drug to be sold in Ireland through the acquisition of an SPC (Supplementary Protection Certificate) which would extend their monopoly until 2020.
The Act Up group are calling for PreP to be made available through the HSE so that there is no price barrier. They are also calling for Gilead to drop the SPC in order to keep generic versions of PreP available in Ireland. The government are procrastinating over the issue, and every week on average 10 people are diagnosed with HIV. This puts people’s lives in danger and prevents poor people from accessing a drug that could prevent a life threatening disease.
HIV diagnoses in Ireland are at a record high. A Journal article (http://www.thejournal.ie/hiv-diagnoses-ireland-4070681-Jun2018/) published on the 15th of June 2018 said over 200 people have been diagnosed with HIV this year so far. The number of HIV diagnoses has increased by 35% since 2011. The group most affected are MSM(men who have sex with men).
Statement from Act Up, who held a protest on the 15th of June 2018 calling on the Taoiseach to make PreP available through the HSE:
“With new HIV diagnoses in Ireland still at record highs, PrEP remains out of reach of most of those who need it.
“Health officials say their hands are tied while an internal HSE cost-effectiveness evaluation process is underway, but this process has been stalled for almost a year.
“Political officials must stop hiding behind a broken process, they need to show real leadership and find a way to make PrEP available and accessible through the HSE now.”