PALM SPRINGS, Calif. - This week the Food and Drug Administration is expected to move one step closer to approving a pill to prevent the spread of AIDS.
The Food and Drug Administration will hold a meeting Thursday to discuss whether the drug Truvada should be approved for people who are at risks of contracting HIV. The agency's positive review suggests the daily pill will become the first drug approved to prevent HIV infection in high-risk patients.
The pill is already found in the medicine cabinets of most patients at the Desert AIDS Project and used to manage HIV.
"We are thrilled to see science looking at ways to prevent the spread of the virus," said Desert AIDS Project CEO David Brinkman.
A three-year study showed a daily dose of Truvada cut the risk of infection for gay and bisexual men by 44 percent and for heterosexual couples by 75 percent.
The pill could help people who are mostly like to get HIV and spread it, such as prostitutes and intravenous drug users.
The main problem is a practical one: will they remember to take a pill every day, and can they afford it?
A prescription runs about $900 a month.
"It will be a challenge to find out who will pay $11,000 a year...when condoms cost 25 cents," Brinkman said.
But to patients like Daniel Collinson at the Desert AIDS Project, the cost of managing his HIV is a lot higher - he estimated his medical bills at around $66,000 a year. Collinson said he knew he was likely to get infected with the virus since his partner was HIV-positive.
"It's so much more costly to pay for the treatment of HIV," Collinson said.
The FDA is expected to make a final decision June 15. After that, it will be up to insurance companies whether to cover it.