Truvada is no longer on the PBS. What does that mean for PrEP?

From April 1, 2020 the brand name Truvada, manufactured by Gilead, commonly used as PrEP and treatment for HIV has been removed from the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). However, other generic brands are still available for both HIV prevention and treatment.

So, can I still get PrEP?

Yes, absolutely! Truvada is just one of the brands of medication that serve as PrEP for HIV. There are still other generic PrEP medications available, which you can find listed here on the PBS, and if you’re on PrEP, it’s likely you’re already taking a generic.

When collecting your PrEP at a pharmacy, while most pharmacists are aware of the generic alternatives available, it may not be the case everywhere. To assist you, this letter can be showed to the pharmacist which includes a list of brand substitutions for Truvada.

What information is needed on my script to access generic PrEP?

If you have a Medicare card and can get prescriptions on the PBS, it is relatively easy to access generic PrEP. When you ask your doctor for a new prescription, there are a few things you’ll need to ensure are on your script. In most cases for a PrEP script on the PBS, these should be included by default but you can double check with your doctor before they print it out for you:

  1. ‘Brand substitutions not permitted’ box is unchecked
  2. Drug name reads as the drug combination and not ‘Truvada’ ie: TDF/FTC (EMT) 300/200, Tenofovir/Emtricitabine 300mg/200mg, or similar
  3. PBS Authority Approval no reads: 7580

Note: full details may vary from script to script.

An example of what a script for generic PrEP might look like

If all this information is on your script along with your correct details (including Medicare number) and the details of your doctor, you should have no trouble accessing generic PrEP at your local pharmacy. While stock levels will vary depending on the pharmacy you go to, in the case where they do not have stock at the time you arrive, they are usually able to order it in within a couple of days.

What if I still want to take the brand name Truvada?

Truvada and generic versions of the drug work exactly the same. There is no difference in the level of protection whether you are using Truvada or generic tenofovir/emtricitabine (the ingredients in Truvada). However, if you want to use the Truvada brand for any reason, it is still possible. Get a prescription from your PrEP doctor as usual and simply order it online. Just be aware that Truvada tends to be more expensive.

I’m POZ and taking truvada as treatment

If you’re living with HIV and use Truvada as part of your treatment – have a chat with your doctor about an alternative. Just like PrEP users, you can still access the same medication for treatment – just under a different brand name. Many people using Truvada for treatment have been moved to Gilead’s new alternative, Descovy. Whether you’re staying on the old formulation, or moving to Descovy or another alternative, have this discussion with your doctor.

Why remove Truvada from the PBS anyway?

We’re not exactly sure, but the most plausible explanation is due to cost. Because generics are now more common, it might not be worth having Gilead’s (more expensive) product available. Having a much cheaper version that does the same thing saves the government money, which in turn saves you money too.