Fourteen health and social justice organizations from across the U.S. wish to celebrate the people-powered effort behind UnitedHealthcare responding so swiftly to demands that they improve access to the HIV drug Truvada for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a medical intervention that prevents HIV infection. On Friday, Aug. 4, UnitedHealthcare received a joint letter from this coalition objecting to new prior authorization rules put in place for access to PrEP effective July 1. These burdensome rules required patients to request access to PrEP every three months, denied claims for some based on highly offensive and discriminatory criteria, and forced UnitedHealthcare members to use the insurer’s mail-order pharmacy program to receive the medication. Within hours, UnitedHealthcare posted a public response to the groundswell of complaints against its PrEP policy. The insurer removed the prior authorization requirement for Truvada and now allows members on PrEP to fill their prescriptions at any UnitedHealthcare in-network pharmacy.
These organizations were not alone in this fight: Alongside their efforts to reverse UnitedHealthcare’s practices were other activists, including Thomas Cinganko, who initially shared his denial letter helping to galvanize critical attention and action on this issue, and ACT UP NYC member James Krellenstein, who gathered more than 3,000 signatures and submitted them to the New York State Health Commissioner regarding UnitedHealthcare’s discriminatory practices. Multiple activist news outlets and reporters also added fuel to the fire regarding UnitedHealthcare’s unjust practices and contributed to its ultimate reversal. This multi-tiered approach to moving the needle on patient access to PrEP benefited from support from the grassroots up.
This is not only a model of advocates’ work in uniting to effect change that benefits peoples’ lives; it’s also an example of how major companies can tune in to the needs of their consumers and evolve their practices to better serve their members. We are aware of other insurers requiring Prior Authorization for PrEP, and we call on them to immediately halt that practice. We commit to monitoring them and closely observing changes to practices around PrEP that they may undertake, so that those who are most vulnerable to HIV are able to protect themselves from transmission.
AIDS Foundation of Chicago
Association of Nurses in AIDS Care
Human Rights Campaign
HIV Medicine Association
National Coalition for LGBT Health
National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors
New York City’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center
The AIDS Institute
San Francisco AIDS Foundation
Treatment Action Group