Milestones: NZ PrEP Study Launches + Improved Access To Generics
Two exciting developments in the PrEP space:
1) NZ PrEP STUDY
The Auckland-wide NZ PrEP study has launched, with Auckland Regional Sexual Health Services currently enrolling six Auckland-based gay or bisexual men per week.
The main objective for the study is to provide solid evidence to PHARMAC of PrEP's acceptability for the New Zealand market - ultimately leading to what we hope will result in funding of the drug for those who need it.
The study will run for two years - giving free access to Truvada as PrEP for the entire period for 150 men. Funding for the drug comes from the manufacturer, Gilead Sciences Inc.
If you'd like to be a part of NZPrEP, you will need to book an appointment with Auckland Sexual Health to see if you are eligible.
2) IMPROVED ACCESS TO GENERIC PrEP
Another way to access PrEP could be to get a prescription for Truvada, which early this year was approved by Medsafe for use as PrEP in New Zealand. This prescription could then be used to purchase Truvada in New Zealand (approx. $1000 for a 30-day supply) or a generic equivalent from overseas (approx. $60-100 for a 30-day supply).
This could be an effective way for some people to access PrEP but until now, there were two key issues preventing it getting much traction.
First, it can be difficult to know the quality of imported generic PrEP from overseas. In New Zealand, Medsafe asserts that the risk regarding the quality of imported generic PrEP would fall on the doctor who prescribed it, rather than with the patient who ordered it. This meant that, until recently, doctors were uncomfortable prescribing it for fear of being held liable if the imported PrEP turned out to be poor quality. NZAF pulled together a group consisting of the Medical Protection Society, lawyers and doctors to resolve this issue, believing that the patient has a right to make an informed choice and that they may choose to accept the risks of importing generic PrEP from overseas. In this case the patient can now sign a document that states they understand the risks and are willing to take on the responsibility for the quality and safety of imported generic PrEP.
The consent form is now being used by some doctors - allowing individuals to import generic PrEP from overseas.
However, the second issue remains, which is that there still aren’t many doctors in New Zealand who have good knowledge of PrEP. It is more than just a prescription for some pills, it’s part of a comprehensive sexual health programme that includes regular monitoring of HIV status, other STIs and kidney function. It’s important that doctors have good training in order to maximise patient safety and PrEP effectiveness. NZAF is currently advocating for PrEP training for New Zealand doctors.
We have put together a map of doctors around the country who are experienced in HIV and sexual health, and can help you make a decision about whether PrEP is right for you.