SEOUL, Feb. 20 (Korea Bizwire) — The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety has approved the sale of Truvada, a type of HIV prevention drug PrEP, in South Korea, but the medicine’s high price is raising concerns over its affordability.
According to sources close to the pharmaceutical industry on Monday, Gilead Sciences Korea’s HIV prevention medication Truvada has become the first drug to be acknowledged for its pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) effect by the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS).
Though vaccines have been approved for HIV prevention, it’s the first time a drug has received such approval.
In a study conducted by Gilead Sciences with a sample of 2,499 individuals, the risk of HIV was reduced by up to 92 percent among gay men in countries including Brazil, Peru, Thailand, the U.S. and South Africa who are thought to be at higher risk.
However, the high price of the drug remains a challenge to many patients and those who wish to take the medicine, with each pill costing 13,720 won.
On an annual basis, the total cost comes down to nearly 5 million won, raising questions over the accessibility of the drug.
The use of Truvada had been allowed in the past strictly for AIDS treatment in South Korea, until last Tuesday when the MFDS recognized the drug’s effect on preventing or reducing the risk of HIV.
Following the decision, however, HIV patients or people who are at higher risk for HIV in South Korean can now be prescribed the drug.
Since 2012, Truvada has been approved as PrEP by drug safety officials in the U.S.
The Korean Society for AIDS recommends HIV patients and men who have sex with men to take Truvada once every day for prevention purposes.
According to data from the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1,199 people in South Korea – including non-Koreans – either contracted HIV or developed AIDS last year, up 43.2 percent from 2010, with most of them being male.
A total of 11,439 people had been diagnosed with the virus and condition until 2016 in the country, excluding those who died, and the government currently supports treatment of AIDS in an effort to stop the spread of the infection.
Hyunsu Yim (firstname.lastname@example.org)