With a groundbreaking stroke of his pen, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed California Senate Bill 159 into law on Monday, granting state residents access to two HIV-prevention drugs, PrEP and PEP, without the need for a physician’s prescription.
The new law, which passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, authorizes pharmacists to dispense 30 to 60-day supplies of PrEP provided consumers have undergone an HIV test and received counseling on the effects of the medication. The law also prohibits health insurance companies from requiring prior authorizations for patients seeking insurance coverage for PrEP.
Short for “pre-exposure prophylaxis,” PrEP refers to the name brand drug Truvada manufactured by Gilead Sciences. Clinical studies have demonstrated that PrEP is 99% effective at preventing the spread of HIV when an uninfected individual comes into contact with the HIV virus through sex or through the sharing of drug equipment such as needles.
While the use of PrEP has increased dramatically in recent years among gay men overall, its use remains low in communities at greatest risk, particularly gay men of color and of lower income status. The hope is that passage of this bill will foster greater access to PrEP for those who face obstacles in seeing a doctor. A generic version of Truvada is expected to be made available later this year, further increasing accessibility.
PEP, which stands for “post-exposure prophylaxis,” is a combination of antiretroviral drugs taken as an initial emergency measure within 72 hours of suspected exposure to the HIV virus and then taken once or twice daily for 28 days. Unfortunately, however, PEP is not always effective at preventing HIV infection, according to a National Institutes of Health website.
“All Californians deserve access to PrEP and PEP, two treatments that have transformed our fight against HIV and AIDS. I applaud the Legislature for taking action to expand access to these treatments and getting us closer to ending HIV and AIDS for good,” Governor Newsom said in a statement.