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Friday, January 23, 2015

Gay Couple Don't Take "No" for an Answer and Successfully Appeal Insurance Denial for PrEP

[Moral of the Story - Don't Take "No" for an Answer]

by Brandon and Shane
Burlingame, California

My name is Brandon and my husband name is Shane. We are both negative and decided to go on Truvada as PrEP. 

We went to our primary care physician, he talked to us about taking it, side effects, the tests we’d need to take prior to taking Truvada. We did a HIV test as well as a full STD screening, after which he wrote us a prescription for Truvada. We went to the pharmacy (Walgreens) and were told that we would need to get a pre-authorization from our insurance company (Catamaran, our prescription benefit company). I called my primary care physician who filled out the paperwork and sent it back to the insurance company.

 After several weeks we heard back from our insurance company via a letter in the mail stating that we were denied "the Dr prescribing the Truvada must be an HIV specialist” (see below.) We appealed their decision, of course.

In deciding to start Truvada we had done a little bit of online research into taking the drug and we were prepared for the “pre-authorization” but were not prepared to be denied for lack of an “HIV specialist. We had previously used the My PrEP Experience blog as a resource, so we emailed them and Jim Pickett answered and offered us some quick advice including a link to the CDC Prep guideline document to help us with our appeal.

We took that information along with data we found from the FDA ("FDA approves first drug for reducing the risk of sexually acquired HIV infection") and the information pamphlet “PrEP Facts” from the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, as well as Catmaran’s own public list of “approved drugs” which Truvada was one.

The text of our appeal letter to our insurance company is below.

Approximately 2 weeks later we received a call from Catamaran informing us that we had been approved for an initial period of 12 months.

Brandon and Shane

Appeal Letter to Catamaran Prescription Benefit  
January 4, 2015
Attn: Catamaran Appeals Department
P.O. Box 371544
Las Vegas, NV 89134 
Dear Catamaran Appeals Department 
I’m writing to lodge an official appeal to the denial of claim #: 0000, a prescription for Truvada Tab 200-300. 
I desire to take Truvada as a PrEP as I am currently an HIV negative actively sexual gay man, and I wish to stay that way. Obviously condoms should be used at every sexual encounter but as a human I make mistakes. PrEP would be there to help when I make that kind of mistake. 
According to the publicly available “2014 Catamaran National Formulary Reference Guide - List of covered drugs” Truvada is listed as a “PREFERRED Antiviral” with no additional proviso of “when it is prescribed by or in consultation with a HIV expert” as stated in the letter of denial. There is no current CDC, FDA, nor US Public Health Service requirement for Truvada as PrEP to be prescribed by an HIV expert, if this is a Catamaran specific policy, I urge you to please reconsider that policy. 
My PCP, Dr XXXX XXXXX, while not a HIV specialist, has been practicing medicine for 24 years. He is a highly respected and qualified Doctor. He has reviewed the recommended REMS program for Truvada as Prep as outlined by the FDA and Gilead with me. ( and the recommended pre-screening HIV and STD tests have been completed with negative results. 
As I am HIV negative and do not have AIDS/HIV+, I am not currently under the care of an “HIV expert” nor should I be. They should be dedicating their resources to their patients that need them. As I’ve referenced below the CDC, the FDA, and the US Public Health Service all state that Truvada as PrEP should be taken by sexually active adults at increased risk to HIV exposure… which I am. 
The FDA approved the use of Truvada as PrEP in July 2012 and stated that “As part of PrEP, HIV-uninfected individuals who are at high risk will take Truvada daily to lower their chances of becoming infected with HIV should they be exposed to the virus.”
In the enclosed CDC document "PREEXPOSURE PROPHYLAXIS FOR THE PREVENTION OF HIV INFECTION IN THE UNITED STATES - 2014” the CDC states “On the basis of these trial results and the FDA approval, the U.S. Public Health Service recommends that clinicians evaluate their male and female patients who are sexually active or who are injecting illicit drugs and consider offering PrEP as one prevention option to those whose sexual or injection behaviors and epidemiologic context place them at substantial risk of acquiring HIV infection.” 
Please give me the opportunity decrease my risk of exposure to HIV, help me do my small part in stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS. Reconsider my desire, my Doctor’s desire, and the FDA and CDC’s recommendation that people like me take Truvada as PrEP and approve my request/Dr prescription for Truvada. 
Sincerely yours,

1 comment:

  1. Was this coverage employer provided or was it part of a standard Catamaran package? My experience with Catamaran was that the employer was in control of what was covered and that they had PrEP as an exclusion.



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