Truvada Commercial During 'Rent: Live' Sparks Dialogue About PrEP Accessibility

JANUARY 28, 2019
Ryan Marotta, Associate Editor
A prescription drug commercial that aired during the broadcast of Rent: Live on television this past weekend has set the stage for a larger conversation about patient access to preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medication.

The advertisement was for Gilead Sciences’ emtricitabine and tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (Truvada), the only FDA-approved PrEP drug available for the prevention of HIV.

Daily use of Truvada has been estimated to reduce HIV infection in at-risk individuals by up to 92%, according to the CDC.1

Gilead’s decision to advertise Truvada during Rent: Live was fitting, as the musical, a loose adaption of the opera La Bohème set in New York City against the backdrop of the 1990s HIV/AIDS epidemic, prominently features several characters with AIDS and highlights their struggles with the disease.

This connection did not go unnoticed by viewers, who took to social media to share their thoughts on the commercial. Many praised Gilead for raising awareness of PrEP among a national audience, and some celebrated the ad’s placement during the Rent: Live broadcast as a symbolic milestone in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
 

Other reactions, however, were more critical. In particular, some viewers expressed frustration with what they said to be the high cost of Truvada. They said this cost may keep the drug out of reach for many patients who could benefit from it. Additionally, HIV/AIDS advocacy groups, such as ACT UP, called on Gilead to “break the patent” and allow a more affordable generic version of Truvada to come to market.

Although the FDA granted approval to a generic formulation of Truvada in June 2017, Gilead indicated in a statement that its patent on 1 of the drug’s components, emtricitabine, would not expire until 2021. Its patent on the other component, tenofovir disoproxil fumarate, expired in July 2017.2

As dialogue surrounding the price of Truvada continues, pharmacists can play a crucial role in educating patients about the importance of PrEP and removing barriers to its access. Notably, the results of a recent study conducted by researchers from the University of New Mexico suggested that pharmacist-led programs that provide PrEP to high-risk populations can help lower HIV infection rates.3

Pharmacists can also point patients who were prescribed Truvada to financial assistance resources at truvada.com/how-to-get-truvada-for-prep/truvada-cost.
 

References
 
  1. CDC. Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). cdc.gov/hiv/risk/prep/index.html. Updated November 1, 2018. Accessed January 28, 2019.
  2. Ryan B. FDA approves generic Truvada for HIV Treatment and PrEP. POZ website. June 9, 2017. poz.com/article/fda-approves-generic-truvada. Accessed January 28, 2019.
  3. Keenan R, Lewis J, Sanchez D, Anderson B, Mercier RC. The next step in PrEP: evaluating outcomes of a pharmacist-run HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) clinic. ID Week. October 5, 2018. idsa.confex.com/idsa/2018/webprogram/Paper72194.html. Accessed January 28, 2019.


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