Newsom signs bill making HIV prevention meds available without prescription

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed a bill Tuesday that makes medication preventing HIV available to residents without a prescription.

The bill, S.B. 339, authorizes pharmacists to furnish preexposure prophylaxis, commonly called PrEP, a drug that helps prevent HIV infection prior to exposure, as well as postexposure prophylaxis, a drug used for patients exposed to HIV, if specified conditions are met.

The bill was introduced by state Sen. Scott Wiener (D) and will allow pharmacists to distribute the drugs without a prescription. Wiener said in a statement that while there have been “massive strides in HIV treatment,” the state still sees about 4,000 new infections each year, particularly in communities of color.

“HIV continues to take a huge toll on public health in California, and SB 339 unlocks a powerful tool to prevent new infections,” Wiener said in a statement. “PrEP is nearly 100% effective at preventing HIV transmission, but far too many Californians lack access to it. Allowing people to obtain this powerful anti-HIV tool at their neighborhood pharmacy will greatly expand access and is a big step toward a future free from new HIV cases.”

According to the text of the bill, the legislation will require health care services and insurers to cover the drugs, along with the pharmacist’s services and related testing ordered by a pharmacist, and require reimbursement for services performed by a pharmacist. The bill imposes a state-mandated local program for health care services to follow.

Under the California Constitution, the state will be required to reimburse local agencies and school districts for any costs.

The California State Board of Pharmacy has until Oct. 31, 2024, to adopt emergency regulations to implement the bill.

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