A new law just passed in California is going to make it easier for people to get access to the groundbreaking HIV prevention treatments, PrEP and PEP. Signed into law by California Governor Gavin Newsom last Monday, Senate Bill 159 allows pharmacists in California to dispense those HIV drugs even without a prescription starting next year.

Authored by San Francisco Senator Scott Wiener and co-authored by San Diego Assemblyman Todd Gloria, the bill allows pharmacists to provide up to a 60-day supply of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), even without a doctor’s prescription. They can also give patients all the drugs used for post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP).

The bill also requires insurers to cover the drugs, as well as preventing them from making the patient take cheaper alternatives of the prescribed drugs. Pharmacists will also be required to complete a training program approved by the California State Board of Pharmacy. They are also tasked with making sure that clinical criteria for use are met by the patient before providing them with the drugs.

The bill first caught attention back in August when it was still being discussed in the California Senate. Now that it has been passed into law, it makes California the first state in the United States to allow that arrangement.

The new law joins other positive developments that have happened over the year when it comes to PrEP and PEP availability. In May of this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention entered into a partnership with the pharmaceutical company Gilead to make 2.4 million bottles of Truvada available to them over the next 11 years. A generic version of Truvada is going to available in 2020, thanks to Teva Pharmaceutical. In June of this year, private insurers were required by law to pay for PrEP.

CLARIFICATION:

Thanks to our Adam4Adam blog reader Brett, here’s clarification on the status of PrEP and PEP in California in light of the new law:

“This article inaccurately refers to medications used for PEP and PrEP as ‘over the counter.’ This is not true. The bill amends California business and professions codes and board of pharmacy law to permit a licensed pharmacist who has taken training courses specific to PEP / PrEP therapy to dispense a 30-60 day supply of medication without a prescription. The bill in effect lifts the legal requirement that a pharmacist obtain a prescription prior to dispensing a prescription medication (i.e., the state will turn the blind eye on legal requirements in this very specific circumstance). The medications used for PEP and PrEP *remain* legend (‘prescription only’) medications in California.

There are also restrictions in the bill that limit this to one time, per person, in any 365 day period. The bill does NOT make Truvada an ‘over the counter’ medication so much as grant people access to PEP and PrEP medication where access is a challenge (e.g. rural areas, on weekends, etc.), with the understanding that the individual follow-up and continue PEP / PrEP medication therapy, HIV testing, and other laboratory monitoring with a primary care physician or other healthcare provider. An ‘over the counter medication’ comes with no dispensing restrictions, legal requirements, etc.”

Thanks, Brett!