The United States Department of Health and Human Services announced on Tuesday that over 3,300 independent pharmacies which are a part of Health Mart will dispense the HIV prevention drug Truvada for free to people without prescription drug insurance coverage. The dispensation will occur without any cost to the federal government.
Patients who test negative for HIV, possess a Truvada prescription and lack prescription drug insurance coverage will qualify for the free Truvada. Participating pharmacies will also take action to assist patients in sticking with their drug regimens, as well as provide patient counseling. Patients will be able to obtain the medication through mail order or at one of over 24,500 American pharmacies participating in the dispensation.
The pharmacies are joining Rite Aid, Walgreens and CVS in the effort to dispense free Truvada. One third of American pharmacies are now participating in the giveaway.
President Donald Trump has pledged to end HIV’s spread and the free Truvada dispensation is a key part of this pledge. The Trump administration has set a goal for half of all people at risk of being infected by HIV on Truvada by 2025. The administration is making an effort to help communities who are especially vulnerable to HIV, including black women, transgender people and gay and bixesual black and Latino men.
The dispensation was also made possible by Gilead Sciences Inc., who donated enough Truvada for 200,000 people over a period up to 11 years. Truvada costs about $20,000 for a one year supply for a patient.
Truvada and Descovy are the only two drugs which can prevent HIV infection which are approved in the United States. HIV prevention medications are also known as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) drugs.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said PrEP medications reduce the risk of HIV infection by around 99%, and that there are around 40,000 new HIV cases per year.
Truvada recently made the news when Facebook began deleting misleading ads about the medication. A 2010 study found that tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF) medications like Truvada are linked to decreased bone density and osteoporosis and a 2018 study found TDF use was linked to renal failure and kidney damage. Both studies involved TDF drugs treating HIV infection rather than being used as PrEP, though. A separate study found that TDF medications are more likely to cause kidney damage or bone density loss when treating HIV infection instead of being used to prevent it. The misleading ads implied that the risk for these side effects was the same for PrEP use and HIV treatment use.