Giving gay and bi men HIV-preventing PrEP on the NHS would save £1 billion, new study finds

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Funding PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) drugs on the NHS would save around £1 billion over an 80 year period, according to a new study.

The financial analysis, published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases journal, comes from a team at University College London.

The study is called Cost-effectiveness of pre-exposure prophylaxis for HIV prevention in men who have sex with men in the UK: a modelling study and health economic evaluation – and you can read it in full here.

Man holding a pill used for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent HIV infection
Man holding a pill used for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent HIV infection

PrEP is already available in Scotland and is currently being trialled by NHS England for 10,000 patients over three years.

The study from UCL predicted that a quarter of HIV cases would be prevented if PrEP was given to men who have sex with men.

If provided routinely the cost to the NHS would initially rise, as it spends money on PrEP and treating existing cases of HIV.

Related: What is PrEP and how can I get it? Everything you need to know about HIV-preventing drugs

However, the latter cost would plummet as the infection rates fall, and the analysis predicts that after around 40 years the savings made and spending on PrEP would be equal.

After a further 40 years, the prediction is that £1 billion would be saved.

Dr Alison Rodger of the UCL team of BBC News: “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.”

Medical director of the Terrence Higgins Trust Dr Michael Brady added: “It is important that all who need PrEP can access it.

“Evidence like this reinforces the need for PrEP to be fully commissioned and given a long-term, sustainable home on the NHS in England.”

PrEP drug Truvada (emtricitabine/tenofovir disoproxil fumarate) can drastically reduce people’s chances of being infected with HIV and is recommended for groups considered to be at high risk of exposure to HIV, most significantly men who have sex with men.


Organisers of the new NHS England IMPACT trial said: “The trial is a pragmatic health technology assessment of PrEP and its implementation, that is, it aims to answer the key questions under real world conditions and at sufficient scale.

“In addition, the new trial will assess the impact of PrEP on new HIV diagnoses and sexually transmitted infections. The results will inform service commissioners (funders) on how to support clinical and cost effective PrEP access in the future.”

Recent research found that the number of gay and bisexual men diagnosed with HIV in the UK has fallen by more than a fifth.

The figures showed a 21 per cent fall in new HIV infections among men who have sex with men from 3,750 during 2015, to 2,810 in 2016.

Another recent study found that PrEP is safe to be used by adolescents.