California is set to become the first state in the United States to allow patients to purchase HIV prevention drugs like pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) over-the-counter and without the prescription from a physician. Furthermore, the new legislation signed by the city’s Governor will also prohibit insurance companies from requiring a doctor’s certificate before covering the said drugs in their insurance coverage.
California has an estimated 30,000 people who are using PrEP as part of their HIV prevention management, and 6,000 people are using PEP to manage their HIV reactive status.
According to the medical analysis presented during the deliberation for the new legislation, PEP and PrEP are recognized by the medical community as effective preventive drugs for HIV-AIDS. The PrEP is taken by negative individuals to reduce the risk of transmission of the virus. On the other hand, PEP is effective in preventing the virus from taking hold when a person has already been exposed to HIV.
Advocates say that PEP is most effective when taken 72 days after exposure to HIV; however, during that timeline, patients usually don’t have access to a doctor. They say that the new law will make the drugs available to those who need it the most.
“The ability to go into a pharmacy to avail themselves of the medication is a huge improvement to removing the barrier,” Rick Zbur, the executive director of Equality California, said.
Furthermore, because of the opposition of the medical community, the initial draft of the law was revised to include a provision that limits the number of HIV prevention pills a person can purchase without a prescription.
“To end new HIV infections, we must dramatically expand access to PrEP and PEP, yet far too many Californians who need these drugs struggle to access them,” said Senator Scott Weiner, co-author of the bill and has publicly disclosed that he is using PrEP as part of his HIV prevention strategy.