Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker last week signed a bill that allows pharmacists to distribute pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis drugs (PrEP and PEP) without a prior referral from a doctor.
“If we want to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic in our state by 2030, then we have to make preventative care like PrEP and PEP accessible to all Illinoisans,” Pritzker said in a statement.
PrEP and PEP reduce the risk of HIV transmission by preventing the HIV virus from replicating in the human body. When taken correctly, PrEP has been shown to reduce risk of contracting HIV by up to 99%. Both drugs require consistent use, with PEP at it’s most effective when taken as soon as possible after exposure to the virus. The CDC currently estimates that less than 20% of those eligible for or possibly benefitting from PrEP take the medication.
Access to PrEP and PEP has been an issue since use started a few years ago, with the biggest issues being cost and primary care providers who are familiar with the medications.
The governor’s office said law also specifies that when these services are provided by a pharmacist, the care must be covered and reimbursed by insurance at the same rate as when provided by a physician. Pharmacists will also receive support and training under the bill to refer patients to other care and support services and for additional testing.
“As a healthcare provider for thousands of patients vulnerable to HIV, we at Howard Brown know that there are still too many barriers preventing patients from acessing PrEP,” said David Ernesto Munar, president and CEO of Howard Brown Health. “The signing of HB4430 is a critical step forward in expanding access to PrEP, especially among the communities that are most disproportionately burdened by HIV. Making HIV preventative services like PrEP more widely available is key in our collective fight to end the HIV epidemic.”
“The pandemic has demonstrated the essential need for pharmacists’ services in our communities and the quality of care that we provide. HB4430 enables pharmacists to broaden our engagement of care and expand access to PrEP and PEP for our patients,” said Garth Reynolds, executive director of the Illinois Pharmacists Association.