HIV campaigners have won a High Court battle to say that the NHS can fund a “game-changing” pre-exposure prophylaxis (Prep) drug that can prevent HIV.
NHS England had said that funding the drug was a local council responsibility as they were in charge of preventative health.
The National Aids Trust disagreed with this decision by health bosses, and challenged it in the High Court, where the judge found there was nothing stopping the NHS paying for the drug.
Mr Justice Green said NHS England had “erred” in arguing that funding the drug was not their responsibility.
However, this decision does not mean that the drug will be automatically funded. Health bosses will now decide whether the drug is sufficiently effective to warrant NHS expenditure. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, which advises the NHS over which drugs to prioritise for funding, has already been tasked with examining the evidence on this.
The daily pill has been shown to reduce the risk of HIV infection by more than 90% and costs £400 a month per person. It is already in use in the US, Canada, Australia and France.
The plan would be to give the pill to uninfected gay men who are having unprotected sex, putting them at risk of infection. Yet, health bosses warn that if they prioritised Prep, there would be an increased risk of legal challenge from other groups wanting similar access to preventative drug treatments.
The NHS in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have not yet made a decision on Prep.