There are many drugs in the world that are used to treat many different kinds of conditions and diseases.
Most of these drugs are life saving treatments that would otherwise force people to seek treatment that may not be as effective, or they would simply be left with no treatment at all, effectively forcing them into a slow decline.
PrEP is one of these drugs and, while it is not used to treat a condition, it does save many lives everyday through its consumption.
With this in mind, though, many of these drugs are not available to buy over the counter, due to potential side effects and the potential for abuse of the substance.
Is PrEP one of these? And if so, why is it not readily available over the counter?
In this article, we will explore PrEP’s availability and why it is not as available as other medication.
What Is PrEP?
PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis, is a kind of medication that is taken before an infection from the HIV virus enters the body to ensure that the affected person does not end up with the condition.
It is a term for a litany of antiviral medications that prevent this group of viruses and their more severe form of AIDS.
PrEP is not a type of vaccine or injection that protects against the virus for a long time or indefinitely, but a tablet that must be taken orally once a day in order to prevent the spread of the disease.
When used in the manner that it is directed, PrEP is one of the most effective medicines on earth, with the risk of acquiring HIV or AIDS after its consumption dropping by up to 99%.
Even if you only take it once or twice a week, your resistance to catching the virus rises.
There are currently trials for an injectable form of the drug that lasts up to 2 months within someone’s system.
This would be great as the communities most at risk of the virus spreading are ones that have regular contact with the virus itself and may not have the resources to buy daily doses, like the rural regions of Africa, where the virus has become an epidemic.
This will also help with groups of people who may not have the best care continuum, especially in the US, because of the cost of healthcare in general and the lack of easily accessible resources towards treating the infection.
Can You Buy PrEP Over The Counter?
No, absolutely not. You can only get this type of medication by getting a prescription from a licensed healthcare professional.
This normally has to be a doctor, a physician’s assistant, or a nurse practitioner.
The reasons are three-fold. The first is the side effects. While most people suffer absolutely no side effects from these drugs, that doesn’t mean there aren’t any.
The most common side effects that people can have are diarrhea, nausea, and headaches, but severe side effects can include damage to your kidneys and liver.
Since these are major organs, a doctor would want to make 100% sure you are not going to experience these.
The second reason is from the presumption that you are at risk because you are a sexually active adult.
If you think you may have HIV, you may also have gotten something else as well.
As such, a doctor will want to examine you to make sure there is nothing else they need to treat you for.
This is especially true if it turns out you have Hepatitis B, as PrEP can actually worsen the condition of a person with this STI.
The final reason is that these medicines are for those who need them.
There are a lot of people in the world who are going to need this medication, and a doctor will want to make sure that those who would need them are getting them to prevent the risk of infection.
This is why you cannot buy them over the counter, and you probably will never be able to.
Is It Difficult To Get PrEP?
Not usually, most doctors will be more than happy to give you the drug, as it shows that you are taking the initiative for your health.
In fact, you don’t even need to go to a specialist doctor, as any doctor that is currently practicing can give you a prescription for it.
You will have to go through some steps before you can get it, as your healthcare practitioner will want to make sure they are not putting you at risk:
History – Doctors will want to take your sexual history and the potential for or your own personal drug use information. This may seem invasive, but it provides a clear indication of what your risk of contracting HIV is.
HIV Test – The doctor will want to also give you an HIV test to ensure that you don’t already have the virus. If you do, then the PrEP will be useless, and you will want to start treatment for HIV straight away to ensure a high life expectancy.
Hepatitis B Test – If you have Hepatitis B and start some of the PrEP drugs, then stop later, you may make your Hepatitis B worse and cause a severe flare up, which is not good for you.
Once you have gone through this process, confirmed that you are at risk, do not currently have HIV, and do not have Hepatitis B, then your doctor should quickly give you a prescription.
They have no reason not to and if it keeps you and other people safe, then it is their duty to do so.
PrEP is not an over the counter medication for several reasons, but the main one is that although it presents a small percent of a risk to some people, that risk can be deadly.
As such, a healthcare professional is required to evaluate a person before they receive PrEP to be on the safe side.