Truvada is one of the first drugs to be developed to fight the HIV virus that ultimately causes AIDS. The promise of anti-HIV medications like Truvada is to reduce the chances of individuals becoming infected if they are exposed to the virus. Truvada will be used by healthy individuals as a pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent healthy individuals from contracting HIV infection. It thus becomes the first drug being used to prevent the HIV virus.
There have been clinical trials of using Truvada as a PrEP. The Partners PrEP trial in Africa studied the daily Truvada administration to the healthy partner (where the other partner in the couple was infected with HIV). It ended up reducing HIV infections by 73 percent among heterosexual couple. Efficacy was 90 percent among those who stuck with their daily drug regimen.
Concerns with Truvada
- The evidence is there for people who stick with their drug regimen, but the real worry is when patients end up struggling to stay on the pill every day. In the clinical trials, those patients who did not take Truvada daily ended up not being protected.
- Will people using Truvada stop using more effective means of HIV prevention such as condoms? People who “skip days” while taking Truvada as a preventive measure will lose the protective effects of the drug.
- Truvada is a powerful drug that has side effects, most prominently: side effects: nausea, vomiting, dizziness, diarrhea, liver and kidney toxicity.
- Truvada is expensive. A one-month supply will cost around $1,200. Truvada does have a program where they will cover copay expenses up to $200 a month. But if you don’t have insurance, this is out of reach.
- If someone with HIV starts taking Truvada, their virus could end up developing a resistance to the drug and making it even harder to treat. It’s safest to use Truvada for HIV prevention in healthy adults without HIV. The long term effects of Truvada usage in people with HIV are not well studied.
Truvada is actually a combination of two older HIV medications: Emitriva and Viread. The final FDA approval for the HIV-prevention drug Truvada is slated for June of 2012.