PrEP & the Law
Although prescribing PrEP is legal in the EU, including the Republic of Ireland, actually getting it is more complicated. Many PrEP users get their PrEP by ordering affordable generic versions online. In some countries, including the UK, it is legal to order medication online for delivery by post or courier. Unfortunately, that’s not the case in the Republic of Ireland.
If you’re interested in getting access to PrEP this way, there are several things you should know about the legal situation in the Republic of Ireland. This information is based on legal advice obtained by the HSE, which you can read in full here.
• It is legal for a doctor to prescribe PrEP in the EU.
• PrEP—whether brand-name Truvada or a generic version—is a prescription-only medication. However you get it, if you are using PrEP the law states that you should have a prescription.
• It IS NOT legal to mail any kind of medication for delivery in the Republic of Ireland. So although you will not get in any trouble for placing an order, the seller could get in trouble for shipping a product directly to an Irish address.
• It IS legal for people in Ireland to order up to 3 months worth of PrEP online for delivery to the UK (including Northern Ireland).
• It is legal to bring 3 months worth of medication into the Republic of Ireland for personal use so long as you carry it in personally. In the unlikely event you are stopped and questioned about the medication, you should have your prescription with you.
• If you choose to order PrEP for delivery to an address in the Republic of Ireland, Irish Customs may intercept and seize that package. If this happens you will not be in any trouble, but they will not return the package under any circumstances.
What about generic PrEP sold in Ireland?
A recent decision by the Irish High Court means that generic pharmaceutical companies can now sell their versions of PrEP in Ireland. This court decision applies only to PrEP sold in pharmacies in Ireland, it does not affect the laws regarding buying PrEP online in any way.
Two companies, Teva and Mylan, have begun to market generic PrEP products ("Emtricitabine/Tenofovir Disoproxil") through community pharmacies in the Republic of Ireland. Generic PrEP sells for about €100 per bottle (30 pills), which is about 3 times what you’d pay with some of the online retailers.
The HSE does not currently provide PrEP or reimburse you for the cost if you buy it yourself. You must pay the full price at the pharmacy yourself.
For some the convenience and security of buying from a pharmacy directly will make this higher price worth it. For others the lower cost of PrEP may outweigh the inconveniences associated with that route.