As early as Nov. 14, pharmacists in Colorado will be able to prescribe and dispense HIV prevention medications, making it one of the first states in the nation to allow patients to receive pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) treatment directly from a pharmacist.
This is in result of the HIV Infection Prevention Medications Bill (HB20-1061), which was signed into law by Gov. Jared Polis this summer and backed by: the University of Colorado Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences; One Colorado, the state’s top Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) organization; and the Colorado Pharmacists Society.
PrEP and PEP therapies are used to prevent high-risk patients from contracting HIV. Studies have shown that PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by about 99% when taken daily. Research also suggests that PEP can reduce the risk of getting HIV, post exposure, by more than 80%.
“For many in the high-risk categories, including the LGBTQ community, navigating the complex healthcare system to obtain PrEP/PEP is a huge barrier to access,” said Emily Zadvorny, PharmD, executive director of the Colorado Pharmacists Society (CPS) and faculty at the CU Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.
In the past, securing a prescription for PrEP and PEP treatments was a multi-step process that began with a traditional office visit to a medical doctor.
“Pharmacists are the most accessible healthcare professional," said Jodie Malhotra, PharmD, director of practitioner and international development, CU Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. "More than 90% of people in the U.S. live within five miles of a pharmacy. Our goal is to provide greater access to healthcare with fewer barriers, leading to improved outcomes and healthier populations.”
“We’re gearing up to launch a state-wide PrEP/PEP continuing education (CE) course so that pharmacists can be ready to provide the treatment as soon as the protocols are approved.”
The CU School of Pharmacy will offer the PrEP/PEP CE course as an online module beginning Nov. 1, with the goal of training pharmacists who can begin offering the therapies as soon as the state-wide protocols go into effect Nov. 14.
More than 14,000 people are reported to be living with HIV or AIDS in the state of Colorado, a number that has been rising over the last five years. Despite the effectiveness of PrEP and PEP – and their strong endorsement by the CDC, USPTF (United States Preventive Services Taskforce) and other medical entities – the treatments are underused.
Although other states, such as California and Oregon, have passed similar measures, Colorado will be the first state to translate the law into actionable state-wide drug therapy protocols – the final step before pharmacists can begin prescribing and administering the treatments. The process was vetted by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and the Boards of Medicine, Nursing and Pharmacy.
Exactly which pharmacies in the state will be the first to provide the HIV prevention therapies is still being determined.