National Aids Trust (NAT), an Aids charity has won a High Court battle, allowing a preventative treatment for HIV to be funded by the NHS.
Taking the PrEP drug was seen as a “game changer” and reduces the risk of HIV infection in people who are at high risk by more than 90%.
It is a once-a-day pill that disables the virus and stops it multiplying. The pill will be given to uninfected men having unprotected sex with men.
The NHS England said it would not regularly fund the drug, which costs £400 per patient per month, as it was not their responsibility to fund a preventative service. They pointed to local councils to provide preventive health services to the public.
NHS England warned that if PrEP was administered this may lead to a demand in other preventative treatments.
After the NAT legally challenged the NHS, the latter agreed to re-evaluate their statement.
Mr Justice Green said, “One governmental body says it has no power to provide the service and the local authorities say that they have no money.”
He added, that the NHS England had “erred in deciding that it has no power or duty to commission the preventative drugs in issue.”
NHS England has announced it will appeal the ruling. Although the win signals a success for NAT, PrEP will not yet be made available for patients since health chiefs need to decide whether the drug is worth investing in and whether it is effective enough.
Although the drug is used in the US, Canada, France and Australia to aid gay men at risk, the NHS in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland remain undecided whether to use PrEP.
Deborah Gold, chief executive of NAT, said that the win signaled a “vindication for the many people who were let down when NHS England absolved itself of responsibility.”
She added, “PrEP works. It saves money and it will make an enormous difference to the lives of men and women across the country who are at risk of acquiring HIV.”
A review of evidence of the PrEP will be carried out by NHS England whilst waiting for a Court of Appeal hearing.