Wales politics

Welsh report says HIV prevention drug 'highly effective'

Image caption PrEP protects cells, which are then able to stop the HIV virus from multiplying

An anti-HIV infection drug has "clear potential" to prevent people catching the virus, a Welsh Government-commissioned report has said.

Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is not currently available on the Welsh NHS.

But a report by an independent HIV expert group said it was "highly effective" when used with the right groups and in the right doses with appropriate monitoring.

Officials will now consider whether the drug can be prescribed.

Anti-retroviral and post-exposure HIV drugs are already readily available. In contrast, PrEP works to prevent HIV infection in people at high risk of the virus.

Dr Giri Shankar of Public Health Wales and chair of the expert group said: "The review of evidence suggests that pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV prevention is highly effective clinically when used in the right client groups and in the right dose with appropriate monitoring."

The report said that, while evidence emerging from clinical trials had been positive, "it remains to be seen how successful patients will be in adhering to the treatment in 'real-world', uncontrolled settings".

"As such, it is of paramount importance that, regardless of whether PrEP is to be provided through the NHS, at the very least, the need for strengthened client and health professional education about PrEP is essential," it added, saying that some in Wales were purchasing the drug online.

The All Wales Medicines Strategy Group (AWMSG) will now consider how cost-effective the drug is.

Image copyright Thinkstock

NHS England has already announced plans for a large scale clinical trial in the 2017-18 financial year, following a court ruling which found the health service had the power to fund the drug.

Welsh Liberal Democrat equalities spokesman Cadan ap Tomos said it was hoped the commission's findings would be acted upon by Cardiff ministers as soon as possible.

"We have been slow to react in Wales, but I am pleased that we are now making the necessary steps forward to improve prevention," he said.

A Welsh Government spokesman said: "The Welsh Government commissioned the establishment of an independent HIV expert group to develop this report on the use of PrEP for the prevention of HIV."

He said the report had gone to AWMSG as part of its appraisal process, adding: "The AWMSG are due to consider the drug Truvada for use as PrEP by the end of April and will provide a recommendation in due course."

More on this story