PrEP HIV study with Ballarat involvement receives extra funding

A study into the efficacy of HIV-preventing drug Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) with participants in Ballarat has been extended by an extra three months. 

This follows the announcement on Friday that PrEP will be subsidised by the Australian Government through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, bringing the cost of the drug down from $10,000 a year down to just $39.50 per script. 

A $400,000 additional contribution to the PrepX study by the Andrews Government will see it run until June 30. This will create a smaller crossover for participants between the end of the study and the listing of the drug on the PBS, which does not have a confirmed date. 

Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) is a medication taken daily by HIV negative people, and when taken every day PrEP has been shown to reduce HIV transmission by up to 99 per cent.

Fourty-five Ballarat people are involved in the statewide study, which has more than 4000 participants in total. They will be able to transition to accessing PrEP through their regular GP when it is listed. 

Alfred Hospital’s PrEPX project leader associate professor Edwina Wright said one of the most important factors influencing the drug’s efficacy was patients continuing to take it with regularity. 

She said the PBS listing was “fantastic”, and researchers and doctors involved in the study would now also be looking towards ensuring participants are safe and experience no gap in the supply of medication. 

“What we know about PrEP is that individuals need to be very adherent, because for gay men, if you stop taking it you’ll have some protection for five to seven days but that’s it,” she said. 

“After that point you have the same probably of contracting HIV as you did before you started taking PrEP.

“It is critical that people have uninterrupted supply, and as doctors we’re very aware of that.”

Dr Edwina Wright

Dr Edwina Wright

Dr Wright said the upcoming listing of Truvada, commonly known as PrEP, to the PBS was particularly important for those at risk of HIV exposure in rural and regional areas where they may experience lesser health outcomes. 

“It’s a very good point that the PBS-listing will provide more uniform access across the state,” she said. 

“I think as long as the doctors and pharmacists and path providers are up to date with what PrEP is and what it means, and they treat all individuals with respect and dignity, that’s the most important thing.”

The study is the second largest of its kind in Australia and is a joint effort by Alfred Hospital and the Victorian AIDS Council.