A report considering how HIV prevention drug Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) could be made available through community pharmacies will be published within days, the pharmacy minister has confirmed.
In a parliamentary debate to mark national HIV testing week in the house of commons yesterday, Labour MP for Hammersmith Andrew Slaughter highlighted issues around access to PrEP.
‘At the moment, because it can be accessed only through sexual health clinics, the average wait to access PrEP is more than 12 weeks,’ he said, adding that sexual health clinics have seen ‘about a 30% real-terms funding cut over the last few years’.
And he asked the minister to consider expanding the availability of PrEP, including through pharmacies.
‘It has been suggested that, given the expansion in services now provided by pharmacies, PrEP could be added to them,’ said Mr Slaughter.
‘I see no reason why that cannot be the case. It could be perfectly safe to prescribe it in that way.’
He added: ‘It would take the pressure off clinics, and it would make the medication more accessible and easier for those who are not currently receiving prescriptions.’
Parliamentary under-secretary for health and social care Dame Andrea Leadsom responded that the PrEP roadmap, which will explore whether the drug could be made available from community pharmacies, will be published on 15 February.
It was previously supposed to be published by ‘the end of the year’, according to then-primary care minister Neil O’Brien.
The drug, which usually contains tenofovir disoproxil and emtricitabine and can be taken daily or on-demand to reduce the risk of becoming infected with HIV, is currently available in England, Scotland and Wales from sexual health clinics. In Northern Ireland, patients can receive an initial consultation and assessment appointments for centrally dispensed PrEP from any genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic.
But the HIV and AIDS All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) has called for PrEP to be made available through community pharmacies, ‘with clear financial accountability for its provision’, according to the APPG co-chair and Conservative MP for Winchester Steve Brine.