California Authorizes Limited Over-The-Counter HIV Prevention

The State of California has made history—again, perhaps—as it has become the first state to offer HIV-prevention drugs without a prescription.  

In a statement released on Monday from the office of California governor Gavin Newsom, the Golden State governor signed bill SB 159 into law. This law “authorizes pharmacists to furnish pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP and PEP) without a physician’s prescription [and] prohibits insurance companies from requiring prior authorizations for patients to obtain PrEP coverage.”

SB 159 was initially passed by the California legislature one month ago, allowing pharmacists to hand out PrEP drugs (like the brand-named Truvada and newly-approved Descovy) in 60-day supplies; as well as full doses of PEP.  

Newsom, himself, commented, “Recent breakthroughs in the prevention and treatment of HIV can save lives. All Californians deserve access to PrEP and PEP, two treatments that have transformed our fight against HIV and AIDS.” 

However, patients must provide proof of testing negative for HIV before receiving these drugs over the counter. 

The CDC, then, contributes,  “When taken daily, PrEP is highly effective for preventing HIV from sex or injection drug use. Studies have shown that PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by about 99 percent when taken daily. Among people who inject drugs, PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV by at least 74 percent when taken daily.”

PEP, alternatively, is an antiretroviral medicine which “should only be used in emergency situations and must be started within 72 hours after a recent possible exposure to HIV,” as described by the CDC.