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HIV treatment not routinely available on NHS in England deemed 'essential' by WHO

An HIV treatment which is not routinely available on the NHS in England has been deemed an 'essential' medicine by the World Health Organization.
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An HIV treatment which is not routinely available on the NHS in England has been deemed an 'essential' medicine by the World Health Organization

An HIV treatment which is not routinely available on the NHS in England has been deemed an 'essential' medicine by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The treatment, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), has been added by WHO to its essential medicines list.

Described as a 'game changer' in the fight against HIV and Aids, it is taken before sex to reduce the risk of becoming infected with HIV.

In December last year NHS England announced it would fund a trial of PrEP, with at least 10,000 participants over the next three years.

Legal action

The announcement followed legal proceedings which resulted in the health authority losing a

An HIV treatment which is not routinely available on the NHS in England has been deemed an 'essential' medicine by the World Health Organization

prep
PrEP is an 'essential' medicine, the WHO says. Picture: iStock

An HIV treatment which is not routinely available on the NHS in England has been deemed an 'essential' medicine by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The treatment, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), has been added by WHO to its essential medicines list.

Described as a 'game changer' in the fight against HIV and Aids, it is taken before sex to reduce the risk of becoming infected with HIV.

In December last year NHS England announced it would fund a trial of PrEP, with at least 10,000 participants over the next three years.

Legal action

The announcement followed legal proceedings which resulted in the health authority losing a legal battle in the Court of Appeal.

Three appeal judges upheld a High Court ruling which said NHS England had the power to fund the drug despite its plea that the responsibility lay with local authorities.

Now WHO has said that PrEP – taken with tenofovir, alone, or in combination with emtricitabine or lamivudine – should be put on its essential medicines list to prevent HIV infection.

Commenting on the news, Terrence Higgins Trust medical director Michael Brady said: ‘By including PrEP in this list, WHO have reinforced the effectiveness of PrEP, and its essential role for global heath needs.

Universal health

‘Adding PrEP to our existing HIV prevention strategies, alongside condoms, treatment and regular testing, means we would have everything we need to bring an end to HIV transmission in the UK, where currently 17 people are newly diagnosed with HIV every day.’

The essential medicines list, which was introduced in 1977 and is updated every two years, is used to help countries make decisions about which products they ensure are available for their populations.

‘Safe and effective medicines are an essential part of any health system,’ said Dr Marie-Paule Kieny, the WHO's assistant director-general for health systems and innovation.

‘Making sure all people can access the medicines they need, when and where they need them, is vital to countries’ progress towards universal health coverage.’


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