In May this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines that urged individuals who have elevated risks of contracting HIV infection and AIDS to take the antiretroviral drug Truvada, the first and only available medication for preventing HIV.
CDC's guidelines were based on results of clinical trials that showed individuals who take the Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis or PrEP pill and adhere to safety practices were significantly protected from HIV infection compared with individuals who do not. In a 2011 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine that involved gay and bisexual men, those who received PrEP had 44 percent reduced risk of getting HIV than those who received placebo. Another study published in the same journal in 2012 which involved heterosexual individuals also found that PrEP reduces likelihood of HIV infection by 62 percent.
The CDC recommendation was seen to increase Truvada's sales but Gilead Science, the drug's producer, is getting an additional marketing boost following the announcement of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo last Sunday.
Before joining thousands of participants in the 45th annual Gay Pride Parade in New York City, Cuomo unveiled an ambitious plan to reduce the prevalence of HIV infection in New York to below epidemic levels in six years. From 3,000 new cases of HIV per year in 2013, the Cuomo administration set a goal to reduce the number of new infections to 750 by 2020.
To achieve this goal, the governor is promoting the use of Truvada and wants individuals with increased risks for HIV infection to use the HIV prevention pill. New York City's health department has, in fact, already started an awareness campaign on PrEP and Post-Exposure Prophylaxis, or PEP, which is taken immediately after exposure to HIV.
An administration official who was involved in the development of the state's plan to combat HIV and AIDS said that Cuomo integrated PrEP in the strategy because not everyone uses condoms.
"Some people use condoms, some people don't," the official told the New York Times. "You can't offer condoms to people who don't want them."
In order to make HIV drugs more accessible, the New York State Department of Health Medicaid Program has already negotiated a deal with Gilead, along with AbbVie and Bristol-Myers for rebates.
"This agreement will further decrease the costs to the state for ensuring all HIV-infected persons are on appropriate medications," Cuomo's office said in a statement.