FDA approves drug for adolescents as epidemic grows in teens

The Food and Drug Administration has approved Truvada pre-exposure prophylaxis known as PrEP for adolescents age 13 to 24 making the HIV prevention pill more available.

In 2016, youth from the ages of 13 to 24 made up 21% of all new HIV diagnoses in the U.S., according to the CDC.

The CDC noted that 81 percent of those new diagnoses happened among young gay and bisexual men. 

Previously, PrEP was only approved for adults over the age of 18 by the FDA, making it more difficult and expensive for adolescents to obtain the drug. Before the FDA approved the drug to those under the age of 18, a physician would prescribe it to someone under 18 as off-label, which meant not approved for that age group.

If prescribed as off-label, it is meant that those under 18 would not be eligible for Gilead Sciences, a medication assistance program.

A one-month supply of the HIV prevention pill can cost at least $1,600 for it to be effective and the drug must be taken once a day. According to GoodRX, the average retail price for the pill in the U.S. is about $2,000 a month. 

Gilead reps say most Americans on PrEp are able to get the pills for free through insurance and co-pay assistance cards. 

PrEP is for those who are at very high risk for getting HIV from either sex or injection drug use, according to the CDC.

 CDC said the federal guidelines highly recommend that PrEP for people that are: HIV-negative and in an ongoing sexual relationship with an infected partner, injection drug users, men who have sex with men but do not always use condoms.

In 2016, the CDC estimated 1 out of 5 new HIV diagnoses in the U.S. were in the demographic of young people ages 13 to 24. 

In Arizona, the state has over 17,000 people living with HIV as reported in 2016.

In Yuma County, as of 2016, there are 311 prevalence cases and 18 people with the disease, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

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