DENVER (CBS4) - Denver pharmacist Dan Scales has drugs that he says could eliminate the spread of HIV/AIDS, if he could only get them in the hands of people most at-risk. Scales is supporting legislation at the State Capitol that would allow pharmacists to give the drugs to people at high risk for HIV/AIDS without a prescription.
In order to access the drugs PrEP and PEP now, you need to see a doctor first. Scales says many people don't, because of cost, inconvenience, stigma or difficulty with access.
"In the rural communities around Colorado and up into the mountain towns, there are pharmacies in every one of those towns but there are not medical providers in every one of those towns."
Scales says the bill would help remove some of the barriers. As part of a pilot program with the state health department he's testing the new delivery model. Scales Pharmacy screens, conducts blood tests and dispenses PrEP and PEP without a prescription.
Scales says time is critical for those already exposed to the virus, "You have a client that's had a sexual assault on Friday night, and you have 72 hours to get them start on therapy, and they don't know where go, who to go to, who to talk to. My pharmacists are all phlebotomy trained, so we actually do the lab draws here. We do the STI testing here."
Scales says he's seen 200 people since the program started eight months ago.
"Across the county, and especially here in Denver, we are only accessing a very small fraction of the clients that are in need of this service," he said.
That's where Rep. Alex Valdez comes in. He's introduced a bill to allow any pharmacy to dispense the drugs without a prescription -- as long as they do the required blood testing.
"This is a great bill for preventing the transmission of HIV and Aids, preventing folks from getting sick and ultimately save families from the devastation of losing a family member to HIV and AIDS," Valdez said.
Under the bill, pharmacies that want to participate in the program would have to go through a training first. The Colorado Medical Society - which represents physicians - has not taken a position on the bill yet.
While the CDC says PrEP and PEP have reduced the number of new cases by almost 70%, as many as 50,000 people still become newly infected each year in U.S.
"The hope is we add to the tool box and we actually move the needle and get a much higher percent of those clients protected," Scales said.
The bill gets its first hearing Jan. 31.
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