Groups in support of community pharmacies offering the HIV prevention drug pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), including representatives from the sector, have met with NHS officials to discuss the proposals, an MP has said.   

MP for Carshalton and Wallington Elliot Colburn met late last week (June 11) with NHSE&I, HIV/AIDS charities and representatives from the pharmacy sector to talk about community pharmacies delivering PrEP. 

‘It was a very positive meeting and I’m delighted that NHSE&I are receptive to the idea,’ he told the Pharmacist

‘The possibility of pilots was discussed, but it is clear these are very early days indeed, so I will be having follow up discussions with them once they have had time to explore it in greater detail.’ 

The meeting comes after Mr Colburn and supporters wrote to NHS chief Sir Simon Stevens in April arguing for PrEP to be accessible in the community beyond sexual health clinics. The letter noted that currently most people accessing PrEP where white and male and did not reflect all the communities at risk of HIV. 

‘Community pharmacy is a massively untapped resource as a whole in the health and social care space in the UK, and one area specifically I believe they can have an impact is in sexual health,’ Mr Colburn told the Pharmacist

‘I hope this is the beginning of great news. Expanding the availability of PrEP to pharmacy can only be a good thing to reach the ambitions of the HIV Action Plan, but also to demonstrate just how much more of a role pharmacy can and should be permitted to play in shaping the health of our country.’ 

News of the discussions comes as an English study published in Lancet HIV showed the annual number of HIV infections among men who have sex with men (MSM) fell dramatically from 2,770 in 2013 to 854 in 2018. 

Using novel statistical modelling of an array of English HIV surveillance information, the University of Cambridge researchers found the decline was consistent across all age groups but was particularly marked in MSM aged 25-34 years old, and slowest in those aged 45 years and older. 

They noted the decline began before the widespread introduction of PrEP in 2016, highlighting the impact of the enhanced testing and earlier treatment strategy that was scaled up between 2011 and 2015. 

Extrapolating the figures, the researchers concluded a 40% probability that England would reach the UN HIV elimination target by 2030, but recommended targeting prevention measures at MSM aged 45 years and older to boost these efforts.