NHS England has said it will fund a doubling of the size of its trial of the HIV prevention drug PrEP to provide an additional 13,000 patients with the drug.
The ‘PrEP Impact Trial’, which currently has over 10,000 participants enrolled with the HIV prevention measure, has been criticised for its cap on the number of places available at sexual health clinics, meaning that people who are not taking part in the trial are having to pay for their own drugs or rely on charities as a result.
According to the National AIDS Trust, some people who have been turned away from clinics after requesting PrEP have gone on to acquire HIV.
A three-year PrEP pilot in Wales began in early 2017, and in Scotland the use of Truvada for PrEP on the NHS was approved by the Scottish Medicines Consortium on 10 April 2017.
In Northern Ireland, PrEP is only available to those who can afford to buy it privately, but in August 2018, the Terrence Higgins Trust announced that it would launch a PrEP access fund in autumn 2018 to support people in both England and Northern Ireland who cannot access or afford the drug.
NHS England said demand for PrEP had “significantly exceeded initial expert predictions”, and that researchers had requested an increase in the number of participants of up to 26,000 by the end of the trial in 2020.
Supporting the researchers’ proposal, NHS England said it would commit to funding additional places in line with existing trial funding arrangements. The trial expansion requires approval from a trial oversight board expected to meet later in January 2019.
John Stewart, director of specialised commissioning at NHS England, said that additional funding would “help ensure the learning from the trial is robust enough to fully inform the planning of a national PrEP programme in partnership with local authorities for the future, as well as protecting more people from HIV right now”.
Deborah Gold, chief executive of the National AIDS Trust, said the NHS England announcement was “a welcome step on the path to PrEP access”.