Israel’s Meuhedet and Maccabi health maintenance organizations announced that they will be subsidizing medication shown to be largely effective in preventing HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, for patients in high-risk groups.
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Known as PrEP, short for pre-exposure prophylaxis, the drug sells at a full price of 1,900 to 2,400 shekels ($525 to $660), but will be sold to Meuhedet members with supplemental coverage who are at high risk of infection for 300 shekels. Those without such coverage will pay 500 shekels.
Meuhedet, the country's third-largest HMO, made the announcement on Monday. It was followed by Maccabi, which announced Tuesday that it will be subsidizing a generic version of the Truvada drug called Emtrivir Teva. The other health organizations, which together provide medical care to the entire Israeli population, are also expected to offer PrEP prescriptions at subsidized prices.
If taken as directed, PrEP has been shown to be up to 95 percent effective in preventing HIV infection.
Dr. Yuval Livnat, director of the Israel AIDS Task Force, welcomed Meuhedet’s move and said his nongovernment organization would continue working to have PrEP included with the other drugs in the so-called "health basket" – medications that the government subsidizes for the population at large.
About 400 new HIV cases are diagnosed every year in Israel. In July, the Health Ministry approved the use of two PrEP drugs: the brand-name medication Truvada, which retails at 2,400 shekels, and the generic version, Emtrivir Teva, which sells at 1,900 shekels.
PrEP had been routinely prescribed in the country for patients who have already been diagnosed as carriers of the AIDS virus, in an effort to prevent it from spreading in the patients’ bloodstream. However, up until now the medications had not been made available to help prevent possible HIV infection.
General practitioners who have undergone special training in the use of the drug will be authorized to prescribe it to patients in high-risk groups, which include gay men. It will be made available in conjunction with other preventive health care measures.
Patients who are prescribed PrEP will be required to receive a general explanation about other diseases transmitted by unprotected sexual relations, and to undergo regular follow-up visits to the doctor. In addition, the drug will be prescribed only after the patient is examined for existing infections.