FDA Approves Second HIV Prevention Treatment. The pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is called Descovy. It was developed by Gilead Sciences. As a PrEP drug, Descovy is meant to be taken daily. PrEP drugs are highly effective when taken as indicated in the drug labeling and can prevent HIV infection, Jeffrey Murray, M.D. FDA, via CNBC. Combined with safe-sex practices, Descovy is recommended by the FDA as a component of a broad strategy to prevent new HIV infections. Close to 40,000 people in the U.

California OKs pharmacists to dispense HIV prevention meds

The law will greatly improve access and help reduce the stigma around the drugs

Advocates of Senate Bill 159 say California is the first state to authorize pre-exposure prophylaxis, also called PrEP, and post-exposure prophylaxis, known as PEP, without prescriptions. California is already considered a leader in AIDS prevention, they say.

» Why Fulton County is key to ending HIV in the country

PrEP is a once-daily pill for HIV-negative people while PEP is a medication that people take to prevent the virus from taking hold. Supporters say PEP significantly reduces the risk of infection, but only if started within 72 hours of exposure to the virus.

Not everyone can get to a doctor in that time frame, says Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California.

"The ability to go into a pharmacy to avail themselves of the medication is a huge improvement to removing a barrier," he said.

He says the law will greatly improve access and help reduce the stigma around the drugs, especially in rural areas and among minorities.

Pharmacist Clint Hopkins displays the HIV prevention drugs Descovy, left and Truvada, right, at Pucci's Pharmacy in Sacramento, Calif., Monday, Oct. 7, 2019. Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill, SB159, by state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, Monday, authorizing pharmacists to sell the HIV preventative medications, to patients without a physician's prescription.
Photo: AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

Nearly 30,000 people in California use PrEP and 6,000 use PEP, according to the California Health Benefits Review Program, which provides analysis to the Legislature.

The California Medical Association was initially opposed to the legislation but became neutral on it after it was amended to limit the number of PrEP pills patients can get without a physician's note to 60 days, said Anthony York, spokesman for the association.

» Who, besides the CDC, didn’t know black gay men needed HIV outreach?

The association was concerned about "long-term use without physician oversight," he said.

The law also prohibits insurance companies from requiring patients to get prior authorization before using insurance to get the drugs, eliminating another obstacle.

The bill was co-authored by state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, who has publicly disclosed that he takes PrEP as an HIV prevention strategy.

"To end new HIV infections, we must dramatically expand access to PrEP and PEP, yet far too many Californians who need these drugs struggle to access them," he said.

Pharmacists in California are already authorized to dispense emergency contraceptives and birth control without a prescription.

» 9 facts about HIV/AIDS everyone should know

Newsom also signed legislation Monday aimed at lowering the cost of prescription drugs. The new law targets so-called "pay for delay" agreements, when makers of brand-name drugs pay for makers of similar generic drugs to delay putting the products on the market.

The new law presumes such arrangements are anti-competitive and steps up enforcement to stop them.

Drug companies argue the bill will cause more delays for generic drugs by ensuring lengthy legal battles over patents.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.