B.C. assesses Truvada, an HIV prevention drug that looks ‘very promising’

In this file photo, a doctor holds Truvada pills at her office in San Francisco.
In this file photo, a doctor holds Truvada pills at her office in San Francisco. Jeff Chiu/AP

Health experts in B.C. are examining an HIV prevention drug that a Vancouver gay men’s health group wants to see covered provincially.

The drug, called Truvada, was approved by Health Canada last year, and is prescribed both as a treatment for people with the disease, and as a preventative therapy meant to keep the virus at bay for people at high risk.

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Some studies have found the drug can slash the risk of infection by as much as 90 per cent if it’s taken before or after sex.

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said the drug has shown promise in improving people’s quality of life.

READ MORE: Doctors celebrate as Health Canada approves Truvada as HIV-prevention therapy

Doctors at the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV-AIDS are now looking at what it can do.

“There is very promising signs that this can improve the quality of life for people and keep people well,” said Dix.

“So the right people are reviewing the drug right now, and the question of coverage, and I’m sure they’ll have a recommendation soon.”

READ MORE: CDC advises doctors to give HIV prevention pill Truvada to at-risk women, heterosexual men too

Dix said their finding is expected in the next several months.

“I don’t think we are talking about a year, no, no, no. But I’m not rushing the process,” he said.

“People are doing their work, they’re going to make a recommendation, and then we’re going to review that and hopefully be able to act on that.”

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Jody Jollimore with the Vancouver-based Community-Based Research Centre for Gay Men’s Health said the group has high hopes the NDP will approve the drug.

“We have heard that they are waiting for more research, that they’re waiting for the price to go down,” he said.

“We haven’t heard that directly, so that’s why we’re still optimistic that there’s room to negotiate with this new government.”

Jollimore said although the drug costs $500 per patient per month, it is cost effective compared to the millions of dollars it can cost to treat someone with HIV.

READ MORE: Insurance coverage inconsistent for HIV prevention drug Truvada in Alberta

Truvada is taken orally, once daily. It contains a pair of different medications, and is sometimes prescribed as a part of a drug-treatment course for HIV-positive people.

However, Health Canada is promoting it as a potential preventative drug.

The drug, which is manufactured by pharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences, was the first medication the U.S. Food and Drug Administration greenlit to reduce the risk of HIV transmission among high-risk people.

-With files from Carmen Chai