Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) drugs will be routinely commissioned by local authorities in a phased approach during the 2020/2021 financial year, the government has told The Pharmaceutical Journal.
In October 2019, Matt Hancock, the health and social care secretary, said during health questions in the House of Commons that “the rollout [of PrEP] from a trial to routine commissioning [would] happen in April ”.
However, in light of ongoing pressures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has confirmed to The Pharmaceutical Journal that routine commissioning of the drug has been delayed.
NHS England and Improvement confirmed in March 2020 that it plans to fully fund PrEP drugs, with local authorities given £16m to deliver routine commissioning of HIV PrEP services.
The Terrence Higgins Trust (THT), a British charity providing services relating to HIV and sexual health, previously expressed doubt over the government’s ability to meet its deadline of making PrEP routinely available on the NHS in England from April 2020, saying it was “entirely unclear” how the timetable will be achieved.
The drug is currently provided to people at high risk of HIV infection in England through the three-year PrEP Impact Trial, which began in September 2017. The trial seeks to gather clinical evidence on optimal targeting, uptake and implementation of PrEP on a large scale.
In August 2018, the THT announced that it would be launching a PrEP access fund to support up to 1,000 people in England and Northern Ireland who could not access or afford the drug.
In June 2019, more than a quarter of the sexual health clinics involved in NHS England’s PrEP Impact Trial were closed to new recruits, despite a promised expansion.