A drug to dramatically cut the risk of HIV infection during sex would save the UK around £1bn over the next 80 years, say scientists.  The team at University College London says Prep, or pre-exposure prophylaxis, is a “no-brainer” for the NHS. The study predicts that giving Prep to men who have sex with men would prevent one in four HIV cases.

NHS England is currently funding a trial of Prep in 10,000 patients, but does not offer the treatment routinely. Prep is already available in Scotland. The health service in England fought against paying for Prep in the courts, but agreed to trialling it in selected clinics. Prep disables HIV before it gets a stranglehold in the body and trials show it can cut the risk of being infected by up to 86%. The financial analysis, published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases, looked at the cost-effectiveness of a national roll-out of Prep, focusing on the highest risk group – men who have sex with men.  It showed offering Prep would cost the NHS money initially as it paid for both Prep and lifelong care for people already infected with HIV, It could take up to 40 years to become cost-effective, when savings from the falling number of new HIV cases equal the cost of Prep.  Eventually, after 80 years, the pills would deliver a saving of £1bn, say the researchers.  Dr Alison Rodger, part of the UCL team, told the BBC: “Not only is it a highly effective treatment, it will save money. It’s a no-brainer so it’s a good thing to do.” Prep disables HIV before it gets a stranglehold in the body and trials show it can cut the risk of being infected by up to 86%. The financial analysis, published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases, looked at the cost-effectiveness of a national roll-out of Prep, focusing on the highest risk group – men who have sex with men.  It showed offering Prep would cost the NHS money initially as it paid for both Prep and lifelong care for people already infected with HIV. It could take up to 40 years to become cost-effective, when savings from the falling number of new HIV cases equal the cost of Prep.  Eventually, after 80 years, the pills would deliver a saving of £1bn, say the researchers.  Dr Alison Rodger, part of the UCL team, told the BBC: “Not only is it a highly effective treatment, it will save money. It’s a no-brainer so it’s a good thing to do.”

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