The New York state Department of Health has officially endorsed daily use of the Gilead medication Truvada for the prevention of HIV infection.
After months of anticipation, the Health Department’s AIDS Institute released thorough clinical guidelines for pre-exposure prophylaxis, commonly known as PrEP, which is a daily dose of HIV medication that people who are HIV-negative but at-risk of contracting the virus can take to drastically reduce their chance of infection. The drug, known by its prescription name Truvada, can reduce the chance of infection by as much as 73 percent, according to studies funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. However, the AIDS Institute stressed that PrEP alone was not enough to prevent new infections. “PrEP should not be offered as a sole intervention for HIV prevention. PrEP should only be prescribed as part of a comprehensive prevention plan,” the report says.
Preventive use of Truvada, while supported by most HIV/AIDS groups including ACT UP and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, remains controversial. In particular, the Los Angeles based AIDS Healthcare Foundation has long battled against the preventive use of Truvada. In July 2012, when the drug was first approved for daily preventive use, the AHF accused both Gilead and the FDA of “negligence bordering the equivalence of malpractice which will sadly result in new infections, drug resistance and serious side effects among many, many people.” Last August the AHF declared victory in their Freedom of Information Act request which sought proof that Gilead colluded with the FDA on “what to say to get their unfavorable drug trial results spun in such a way that the FDA deemed them sufficient to approve the drug.”
Truvada retails at an annual cost of up to $14,000 and its use as a preventive is not yet covered by all insurance plans. Today’s guideline from the state recommends that AIDS groups focus on identifying the most high-risk persons who would benefit from its daily use.