Campaigners hail latest ruling for ‘game-changing’ treatment
by Steve Sweeney
NHS England does have the power to commission a drug treatment that could prevent thousands of people getting HIV, the Court of Appeal ruled yesterday.
Leading charity the National Aids Trust (NAT), backed by the Local Government Association, hailed the decision as an important step in the fight to eradicate HIV/Aids. The latest ruling means that the pre-exposure prophylaxis drug (PrEP) must now be considered by NHS England when funding new treatments.
Terrence Higgins Trust chief executive Ian Green called PrEP “a game-changer” and said that “if used alongside condoms, regular testing and treatment, it could be the vital piece of the puzzle to help end the HIV epidemic for good.”
NHS England had challenged an earlier ruling, arguing that it could not legally commission the drug and claimed that the cost should be borne instead by cash-strapped local authorities that have responsibility for arranging preventative services to stop the spread of HIV/Aids.
It said that nine new treatments and services NHS England had planned to make available to patients had been put on hold pending the court’s ruling.
But Mr Green slammed the conduct of NHS England and said that its behaviour “has reminded us that, 30 years on, HIV is still stigmatised in a way that many other health conditions are not.”
He said that for every day the NHS delays access to the drug, 17 people are diagnosed with HIV and demanded that PrEP is “prioritised and made available now to those at risk.”
NAT chief executive Deborah Gold said: “We are delighted to have been vindicated by the court a second time.” She stressed the importance of PrEP in the fight to “This judgement brings that possibility one step closer.”
Shadow minister for public health Sharon Hodgson MP said: “The right and fair decision has been made today.
“NHS England now needs to take the decision to provide PrEP and ensure it becomes available as soon as possible,” she said.
Following yesterday’s verdict, NHS England welcomed the judgement but said it meant it had the ability, but not the obligation, to fund the treatment.