10/05/2017 10:31 BST | Updated 10/05/2017 10:52 BST

HIV-Preventing Drug PrEP Should Be Available On NHS, Say Lib Dems

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The HIV-preventing drug PrEP should be made available on the NHS, the Lib Dems have said.

Norman Lamb, the party’s health spokesman, said today PrEP was a “vital weapon” in the fight against HIV.

The drug, also known as Truvada, is currently not available on the NHS across the UK and a private prescription costs £400 a month.

It can reduce the chances of contracting the potentially life-threatening virus by more than 90%.

Around 47,000 gay or bisexual men and around 49,500 heterosexuals were estimated to be living with HIV in the UK by the end of 2015.

Last month. the NHS in Scotland said it would make the drug available to at-risk groups. The NHS in England and Wales have approved trials.

In November, the Court of Appeal ruled the NHS England had the ability, but not the obligation, to fund PrEP. The NHS had argued local authorities should have to pay. 

Labour has said in the past it is “right and ethical” for PrEP to be funded by the NHS. And The Green Party made ensuring the drug was provided part of its LGBT manifesto.

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Lib Dem leader Tim Farron (L) and his health spokesman Norman Lamb.

The announcement is the latest in as series of policy proposals by the Lib Dems as the election campaign kicks into high gear.

Lamb said: “The Liberal Democrats in Parliament have led calls for PrEP to be made available to all high-risk groups.

“We have seen repeated attempts to delay the funding of this treatment in a bid to avoid costs, but the Liberal Democrats’ ambitious rescue plan for the NHS and Social Care - including an additional penny on income tax - would allow this drug to be funded as a priority.

“We know that PrEP is highly effective in reducing transmission of the virus. Prevention is always better than treatment, so it makes absolutely no sense to delay roll-out of the drug any longer.”

The Lib Dems argue it “makes sense” to provide PrEP on the NHS as it saves money.

The party said while year’s supply of the drug officially costs £4,330 per year, the NHS obtains a discount and may pay only around £3,000 per year. But a lifetime of HIV treatment costs up to £360,000.

Last year the Daily Mail was accused of “dangerous” homophobia by an MP after it said providing the drug would “encourage men to have sex with multiple partners”.