New HIV treatments introduced to NHS

Two new HIV treatments will soon become available on the NHS in Scotland, following a decision by the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC), the body responsible for assessing new medications.

The treatments, known by the brand names Biktarvy and Juluca, should help to simplify HIV treatment for those who access them, reducing the number of daily pills, lessening the long-term side effects and contributing to reducing new infections.

We submitted evidence to the SMC to help inform their decision, sharing feedback from service users about their experience of HIV treatment and highlighting the potential benefits of the new drugs.

We’ve heard from people who have complicated treatment regimes, requiring a number of different medications taken throughout the day. Factors like whether different medications need to be taken on a full or empty stomach, or even the size of the pill itself, add to the complications. The new treatments can effectively replace multi-treatment options, reducing the number of daily pills and making it easier for people to manage treatment and improve their health.

We also heard concerns from service users about the long-term side effects of existing treatment as people grow older living with HIV. Over time, some existing treatments have been shown to affect things like bone density and liver function. At the same time, complicated HIV treatments can sometimes make it more difficult to treat other conditions associated with aging, due to the way different drugs interact. The new treatments have been found to reduce the risk of these long-term side effects and implications.

In our submission, we also highlighted that the availability of the new treatments could contribute to efforts to reduce new infections. HIV medications are now so effective, they can reduce the levels of HIV in a person’s blood to the point it is undetectable. A person with an undetectable viral load who maintains treatment cannot pass the condition on to sexual partners. By making the treatment of HIV more straightforward, these drugs can make it easier for people to start and maintain treatment, and manage their HIV to the point it is undetectable. Alongside the health benefits this brings to people living with HIV, it can also contribute to challenging stigma and encouraging people to access testing and support.

The SMC’s decision is a welcome one and we will now be working with service users who may benefit from the new treatments to assess their options and access support through the NHS.

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