Gilead HIV Prevention Pill Gets Backing From U.S. Health Panel

(Bloomberg) -- An influential U.S. health authority recommended an HIV prevention regimen using Gilead Sciences Inc.’s Truvada for people at high risk of getting the virus, saying they found it had a “substantial benefit” in preventing the disease.

The draft recommendation by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force paves the way for wider insurance coverage of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, known as PrEP, a prevention strategy that relies on a once-daily dosage of Truvada. While insurers generally cover PrEP, out-of-pocket costs can make it difficult for some patients to access.

Truvada lists for about $1,675 a month, according to data compiled by Bloomberg Intelligence.

Under the Affordable Care Act, health plans are required to cover preventive services that get an A or B rating from the task force with no cost-sharing. The panel gave PrEP an A rating, recommending it for high-risk populations including people whose sexual partners are HIV-positive, as well as those at risk because of inconsistent condom use or sharing needles. People in monogamous relationships who’ve recently tested HIV negative aren’t considered high-risk.

About 193,000 Americans were on PrEP at the end of September, Gilead executives said on a conference call in July. A representative from Gilead didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.

When taken properly, PrEP has been effective at preventing new infections, contributing to a decline in the number of new HIV cases among gay and bisexual men to the lowest since the epidemic began in the 1980s. More than 700,000 people in the U.S. have died from the epidemic, and about 1.1 million currently live with HIV, according to estimates by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC has previously recommended PrEP for people who are at high risk of getting HIV.

The Preventive Services Task Force is a group of volunteer medical experts selected by the director of the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. It evaluates medical evidence to determine which interventions are effective at preventing illness in people who are asymptomatic or healthy.

The group makes its judgments without regard to the cost of the intervention. The draft recommendation is open for public comment through Dec. 26.

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