Prescribe HIV prevention pill to risk groups, Dutch Health Council advises

Pills (Photo: MorgueFile / Wikimedia Commons)Pills (Photo: MorgueFile / Wikimedia Commons)

The Dutch Health Council wants the government to make HIV prevention pill Prep available to population groups that are at higher risk of being infected by the virus, such as homosexual men. According to the Health Council, the pill is medically- and cost effective and should be considered "essential care" for high risk groups, NOS reports.

The Health Council looked into Prep at the request of former Health Minister Edith Schippers.

Every year around 800 people are diagnosed with an HIV infection in the Netherlands. "Prep can help bring this number down", the Health Council wrote in its report. Two thirds of the new infections occur in homosexual men. And over a quarter occur in heterosexual men and women, especially among immigrants.

Prep is already covered by health insurers in France, Belgium, and Norway. In the Netherlands doctors can prescribe the pill, but so far it is not reimbursed by insurers. A number of organizations, including the Dutch Association of HIV Treaters and the Aids Fund, already called for Prep to be included in the basic health insurance package.

According to NOS, Prep - officially called Pre-Exposition Prophylaxis - is considered a wonder drug. The pill's active substance prevents the HIV virus from multiplying in an uninfected person, and the pill can therefore offer protection against HIV infection if taken according to the instruction. It involves 30 pills, of which one must be swallowed once a day, kind of like with contraceptives. 

The costs of the drug has fallen sharply over the past years. Initially Prep cost users over 500 euros per month when only the Truvada brand was available, according to the Aids Fund. Now that generic variants are available, the pills cost around 50 euros per month.