PEP (Post Exposure Prophylaxis), and medicines used to treat HIV, had been dealt with and dispensed exclusively in a hospital setting. Mail order delivery of medicines in Ireland was, and remains, illegal.
When PrEP became available on prescription in Ireland in December 2017, this was the first time Antiretrovirals (ARTs) had been dealt with in community pharmacies. As head pharmacist with Meaghers Pharmacy (pronounced Mars, like the chocolate bar for those of you who wondered!) it was really important for us to ensure we dealt with this development correctly. We set about meeting with the GMHS who ensured that our pharmacists were aware of exactly what was involved in the process and where we could help out.
While the HSE continues to review its decision on covering PrEP under government schemes and making it freely available to those who cannot afford it, Meaghers have worked hard with the drug companies to bring down the price and make it as accessible as possible in the interim. We now provide the generic Emtricitabine/Tenofovir at €60 for a one month supply and €180 for a 3 month supply.
Some people will argue that PrEP should not be provided for by the HSE as it can be seen as facilitating or encouraging a sexual choice not to use other protections such as condoms. We strongly disagree and recently discussed the comparison of PrEP to that of oral contraception. In the same way a person chooses to use oral contraceptives to reduce the risk of becoming pregnant, a person may choose to use PrEP to reduce the risk of them contracting HIV. They may choose to use condoms to prevent other STIs, but in the event that this fails (and they do fail sometimes) or due to the choice being impaired by alcohol or drug use, they have this protection in the background.
Prescriptions are generally written in the clinics for a 3 month period as it is recommended to have a check-up after this time. When you bring your prescription into one of the Meaghers’ pharmacies you will be welcomed by one of our expert pharmacists and offered the opportunity to either collect it one month at a time, or all three months together. You may have questions with regard to how it is taken or the side effects. Every one of our pharmacies has a consultation area to speak with you in private and answer any questions you might have.
In our pharmacies you will be provided with a prescription receipt which allows you to claim the cost of this medicine against your annual tax bill. As a taxpayer you are entitled to 20% back on the cost of any prescription medicine. This potentially brings the one month and three month costs down to €48 and €144 respectively - a cost of €1.60 per day.
Meaghers will be rolling out the HIV self-testing kit Autotest VIH® in our stores and online in the coming weeks. Next months article will detail the developments in self-testing and how we are supporting this area.
Eugene Renehan is Superintendent Phamacist in Meaghers Pharmacy Group and an Adjunct Assistant Professor in Practice of Pharmacy in TCD. He is a member of Out2Tennis and the Emerald Warriors. You can contact Meaghers through any of their Social Media platforms or email firstname.lastname@example.org