Access to medication that prevents HIV expanded to primary care and pharmacies

Until now, PrEP prescriptions were only carried out in hospital specialty consultations, with dispensation in the pharmaceutical services of SNS hospitals.

The prescription of the medicine used to prevent HIV infection will be extended to primary care, community organizations, consultations carried out in the social and private sectors, and can be dispensed in community pharmacies, the Ministry of Health announced today.

The measure was published today in the Diário da República, through the ordinance that “defines the procedures to be adopted with a view to expanding access to HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) and establishes an exceptional reimbursement regime for medicines intended for PrEP” , which comes into force on Tuesday and takes effect within 120 days.

The Ministry of Health (MS) said in a statement that the diploma changes the way in which medicines are prescribed and dispensed to prevent HIV infection and establishes an exceptional reimbursement scheme of 69% on a current price that should not exceed 40 euros. monthly.

Until now, PrEP prescriptions were only carried out in hospital specialty consultations, with dispensation in the pharmaceutical services of National Health Service hospitals.

According to the ordinance, it will continue to be possible to access PrEP, free of charge, in pharmacies in NHS hospitals, through prescription in specialist consultations in the hospital network, as was the case until now, and in initiatives aimed at key populations, in primary health care and community associations.

“This new regime introduces, as a novelty, the possibility of these medicines being prescribed by a range of medical specialties – dermatovenereology, infectious diseases, general and family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics and public health, either within the scope of primary health care in the NHS. , whether in offices, health units and community-based organizations not integrated into the SNS”, highlights the MS.

Medications can now also be collected from community pharmacies, allowing the user to have more simplified access and greater convenience with their schedules.

According to the ordinance, pharmacies will only be able to dispense, per act, a maximum of two packages, and a maximum of seven packages every six months.

Medicines indicated for oral PrEP that benefit from the exceptional reimbursement regime correspond to the international common name (INN) Emtricitabine + Tenofovir.

“PrEP is today, indisputably, one of the approaches to be made available in the context of a comprehensive prevention strategy, in order to contribute to reducing the number of new HIV infections in Portugal, which justifies, in itself, the elimination of barriers and expanding access to PrEP to people at greater risk of HIV infection”, highlights the MS.

It also highlights that the definition of new procedures will be adopted within the scope of the National Program for Sexually Transmitted Infections and HIV Infection of the Directorate-General for Health.

The Ministry of Health highlights that, “although Portugal has seen a considerable decrease in the incidence of HIV infection, it continues to present indicators that highlight the need to reinforce the focus on prevention strategies that accelerate the reduction in the number of new infections”.

According to the HIV Infection in Portugal 2023 Report, PrEP recorded a significant increase, in 2022, in the number of people covered by “this important prevention strategy”, reaching a total of around 4.500 people, mostly men and who report sexual practices with other men.

Portugal registered 804 new cases of HIV infection last year, confirming a decreasing trend that has been observed since 2000, according to the report.