In a historic move, California Governor Gavin Newsom has signed a sweeping bill that will allow residents of the state to get anti-HIV drug regimens PrEP and PEP without a prescription.
The new bill expands the authority of pharmacists to dispense between a 30 and 60 day supply of the drug Truvada, which is used to treat and prevent HIV infections, as part of PrEP and PEP therapy. PrEP–short for pre-exposure prophylaxis–involves taking a low dose of Truvada every day to prevent infection. Studies of the drug program have repeatedly shown it more effective than condoms in preventing the spread of the disease. Patients take PEP, or post-exposure prophylaxis, at a higher dose after having sexual contact with a partner to prevent seroconversion if exposed to HIV. The bill also prohibits insurance companies from demanding a prior-authorization by a physician before a patient can access the drugs.
“Use of PrEP and PEP in California remain far too low, particularly in communities most affected by HIV,” said APLA Health CEO Craig E. Thompson in a statement. “SB 159, which passed the California Legislature with overwhelming bipartisan support, will increase the places where people can access these medications, increase the number of healthcare professionals who can provide them and remove onerous and unnecessary insurance barriers. We applaud Governor Newsom for signing SB 159 into law.”
Though PrEP use among gay men has radically expanded in the past few years, use of the drug remains low among the highest-risk communities, particularly low-income households and queer men of color. The new bill aims to correct that problem, offering PrEP to patients who have trouble accessing a doctor or getting the drug through their insurance. A generic version of Truvada will hit the market later this year, also drastically reducing the cost of adhering to the PrEP regimen.