NHS can provide PrEP – but only if it chooses to

02 August 2016
Act Up London demonstrating against the unavailability of PrEP

The UK High Court has today ruled that the National Health Service (NHS) England can legally provide the game-changing HIV prevention drug, Truvada, as a pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to HIV negative people most at risk of HIV – but only if it chooses to.

PrEP has been shown to be over 90% effective in preventing HIV, and is considered a vital element in the HIV prevention toolkit by UNAIDS and the World Health Organization (WHO).

In March, NHS England decided not to fund PrEP, stating that they were not responsible for commissioning HIV prevention services. In their original statement, they proclaimed that there could be certain legal challenges as a result of resources being taken away from other treatments, and that it was in fact the role of local authorities to decide on which preventative therapies it would fund.  

The decision was described as a complete U-turn by UK civil society, with some believing the legality of providing the drug was used as an excuse to not provide it on a cost-basis, despite the evidence showing that PrEP is both effective and cost-effective. The National AIDS Trust (NAT) challenged NHS England on their decision, which resulted in today’s ruling declaring that the NHS had interpreted the law incorrectly, and that it could legally fund the drug if it wanted to.

Deborah Gold, NAT Chief Executive, said: “It is vindication for the many people who were let down when NHS England absolved itself of responsibility for PrEP.  The judgment has confirmed our view - that it is perfectly lawful for NHS England to commission PrEP.  Now NHS England must do just that.”

The ruling however is not binding and does not compel NHS England to fund the drug. NHS England have already said that they will appeal the decision.

Photo credit:
Photo by Jason/ CC BY-NC-ND 2.0