Truvada vs Descovy

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For patients at high risk of HIV infection, certain antiretroviral drugs that inhibit the replication of HIV in the body can help prevent infection and manage symptoms. Truvada and Descovy are two such medications used for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). Both consist of two types of antiretroviral drugs combined into one pill, which work together to impede the virus's ability to replicate within human cells. Truvada contains tenofovir disoproxil fumarate and emtricitabine while Descovy comprises tenofovir alafenamide and emtricitabine. While both have been found to be effective as PrEP, Descovy is noted for potentially causing less damage to bones and kidneys compared with Truvada.

What is Truvada?

Emtricitabine/Tenofovir Disoproxil (the generic name for Truvada) was a significant advancement in the field of antiretroviral therapy medications, primarily used to prevent and treat HIV. This medication was first approved by the FDA in 2004. Truvada works by inhibiting certain enzymes that HIV-infected cells use to replicate, effectively reducing the amount of virus in the body and preventing it from multiplying further. It is frequently prescribed as part of combination therapy for those living with HIV.

Descovy, on the other hand, contains emtricitabine but uses tenofovir alafenamide instead of tenofovir disoproxil – making it a newer version of Truvada. The advantage here lies in Descovy's selective action; studies have shown that this medication has less impact on kidney function and bone density compared to its predecessor - Truvada which can be beneficial for patients who are at risk or have existing bone or kidney conditions. Both drugs are well-tolerated overall, but their side effects may include nausea, diarrhea and headache among others.

What conditions is Truvada approved to treat?

Truvada and Descovy are both used in the treatment of HIV infection:

  • Truvada is approved for use as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to reduce the risk of sexually acquired HIV-1 in adults and adolescents who are at high risk. It is also used together with other antiretroviral agents for the treatment of HIV-1 infection.

  • Descovy has a similar usage but it's not indicated for individuals at risk through receptive vaginal sex. Therefore, its PrEP indication does not include those who have receptive vaginal sex. Like Truvada, it can be paired with other antiretroviral agents to treat existing HIV-1 infections.

How does Truvada help with these illnesses?

Truvada and Descovy are both medications that help to manage HIV by reducing the amount of virus in the body. They do this by inhibiting enzymes called reverse transcriptase, which is needed for HIV to replicate itself within cells. They are antiretroviral medications, a class of drugs that act against retroviruses such as HIV. By blocking reverse transcriptase, these two medicines can keep the viral load low and slow down the progression of the disease.

However, there's a difference between them: Truvada contains emtricitabine and tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF), while Descovy consists of emtricitabine and tenofovir alafenamide (TAF). TAF has shown less harmful effects on kidney function and bone density than TDF, making Descovy often preferred for patients with pre-existing kidney issues or risk factors for osteoporosis. Therefore, it provides an effective option for managing HIV but with fewer potential side effects compared to Truvada.

What is Descovy?

Descovy is a brand name for the combination of emtricitabine and tenofovir alafenamide, which are both antiretroviral medications used to treat and prevent HIV/AIDS. It works as a nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NRTI), meaning it blocks an enzyme that HIV uses to replicate itself. Descovy was first approved by the FDA in 2016. As Descovy does not work like protease inhibitors, it doesn't interfere with the breakdown of proteins. Its lack of action on protein metabolism means that its side-effect profile is also different from those of protease inhibitors, particularly in that it's less likely to cause lipodystrophy and metabolic disorders (common side effects with some other classes of antiretroviral drugs). The effects on blocking HIV replication can be beneficial for treating or preventing HIV infection, especially in patients who show resistance to "typical" antiretroviral treatments such as Truvada.

What conditions is Descovy approved to treat?

Descovy has been approved by the FDA for use in adult and pediatric patients weighing at least 35kg, with the following indications:

  • HIV-1 pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to reduce risk of sexually acquired infection in individuals at risk, excluding those who have receptive vaginal sex.
  • Treatment of HIV-1 infection in combination with other antiretroviral drugs.

How does Descovy help with these illnesses?

Descovy, like Truvada, is a combination antiretroviral medication used in the treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS. However, it functions slightly differently by inhibiting enzymes that are crucial to the replication of HIV within the body. Descovy contains two active ingredients: emtricitabine and tenofovir alafenamide (TAF). Tenofovir alafenamide has been shown to have less impact on kidney function and bone density than tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF), which is found in Truvada. This makes Descovy potentially a better choice for patients who have pre-existing kidney issues or who are at risk of osteoporosis. Like any medication though, it may not be suitable for everyone and should only be taken under medical advice after considering possible side effects and interactions with other medications.

How effective are both Truvada and Descovy?

Both Truvada and Descovy are antiretroviral medications that have shown significant success in both the treatment of HIV (when used as part of a combination therapy) and prevention of HIV infection, otherwise known as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). They were initially approved by the FDA several years apart with Truvada receiving approval in 2004 and Descovy following suit in 2016. Both contain two active ingredients: emtricitabine and tenofovir. However, they differ slightly - while Truvada contains tenofovir disoproxil fumarate, Descovy contains tenofovir alafenamide.

The effectiveness of these drugs was directly studied in numerous clinical trials which demonstrated similar efficacy between them for managing HIV replication when combined with other antiretroviral treatments. In terms of side effects, both drugs possess relatively benign profiles but key differences exist; notably, use of Truvada has been linked to kidney problems and decreases in bone mineral density more frequently than usage of Descovy.

A 2020 meta-analysis indicated that both medications are well-tolerated but also highlighted that some individuals may prefer one over the other due to specific side effect profiles or potential drug-drug interactions. The same study reports that the active ingredient difference between them is thought to give Descovy a slight edge regarding long-term bone safety and renal safety compared to Truvada.

Descovy is typically considered an optimal choice for individuals who have pre-existing kidney issues or those at high risk for osteoporosis given its improved renal and bone safety profile compared to Truvada. Nonetheless, it's important to note that either medication should only be taken under close medical supervision considering their use involves managing serious health concerns such as HIV/AIDS.

abstract image of a researcher studying a bottle of drug.

At what dose is Truvada typically prescribed?

Oral dosages of Truvada for HIV-1 prevention (PrEP) in adults and adolescents who weigh at least 35 kg is one tablet once daily. It's essential to confirm a negative HIV-1 test before initiating and periodically during treatment. For Descovy, the dosage for similar use is also one tablet orally once per day among those weighing at least 35 kg with a confirmed negative HIV-1 status. In either case, these medications should be used as part of a comprehensive strategy including adherence to daily administration and safer sex practices to reduce the risk of sexually acquired infections. The maximum dosage that should not be exceeded in any case is one tablet per day.

At what dose is Descovy typically prescribed?

Descovy treatment is typically initiated at a dosage of one tablet per day, each containing 200 mg emtricitabine and 25 mg tenofovir alafenamide. Unlike some other medications, there's no need to increase the dose over time -- the initial dose is usually effective for the majority of patients. It's important to take Descovy consistently as skipping doses can reduce its efficacy in preventing HIV infection or managing existing HIV condition. The medication should be taken around the same time every day for optimal results. Adjustment of dosages might only be necessary if kidney impairment exists, which needs to be monitored by your healthcare provider regularly.

What are the most common side effects for Truvada?

Common side effects of Truvada include:

  • Diarrhea, nausea, and abdominal pain
  • Headache
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue (general weakness and tiredness)
  • Dizziness
  • Rash
  • Depression or anxiety symptoms
  • Insomnia or other sleep disorders

In comparison, Descovy may cause:

-Diarrhea -Nausea -Fatigue -Rash
-A headache -Stomach discomfort
-Sleep problems such as insomnia

Remember that not all people will experience these side effects. If you do notice any severe symptoms while taking either of these medications, it is important to consult with your healthcare professional immediately.

abstract image of a patient experiencing side effect

Are there any potential serious side effects for Truvada?

In rare circumstances, Truvada and Descovy can trigger serious side effects. For both medications, these could include:

  • Signs of new infection: fever, night sweats, swollen glands, cold sores
  • Severe liver problems: dark urine and/or yellow skin or eyes (jaundice), loss of appetite for several days or longer
  • Kidney issues: increased thirst and urination, constipation
  • Lactic acidosis symptoms: irregular heartbeat, trouble breathing; feeling light-headed; stomach pain with nausea and vomiting.

For Truvada specifically:

  • Bone health issues such as fractures may occur more frequently due to bone density reduction. You might feel a persistent dull ache in your bones.

For Descovy specifically:

  • Unusual weight gain especially around your waist area

If you experience any of the above side effects while taking either Truvada or Descovy reach out promptly to your healthcare provider.

What are the most common side effects for Descovy?

Descovy, like other antiretroviral medications, can have an array of side effects such as:

  • Nausea and changes in appetite
  • Upset stomach or slight abdominal discomfort
  • Dizziness or headaches
  • Fatigue and sleep problems (insomnia)
  • Mild skin rash
  • Changes in body fat distribution

While most of these are relatively mild and manageable, they should still be reported to your healthcare provider. It's important to note that side effects vary greatly from person to person; some individuals may experience no side effects at all.

Are there any potential serious side effects for Descovy?

While Descovy is generally well-tolerated, it's important to be aware of potential side effects that may require immediate medical attention. These include:

  • Signs of allergic reaction such as hives, difficulty breathing or swallowing, swelling in your face or throat
  • New signs of infection - fever, night sweats, swollen glands, mouth sores or ulcers
  • Kidney problems: little or no urination; painful or difficult urination; swelling in your feet and ankles; tiredness
  • Liver problems: loss of appetite for several days or longer; nausea and vomiting; yellowing eyes/skin (jaundice)
  • Severe lower back pain
  • Unusual changes in mood/behavior

If any of these symptoms are observed while taking Descovy, seek medical help immediately.

Contraindications for Truvada and Descovy?

Both Truvada and Descovy, like other antiretroviral medications, may cause side effects in some people. If you notice any severe symptoms such as lactic acidosis (excessive fatigue or weakness), liver problems (yellowing skin or eyes), worsening kidney problems, bone loss or pain, please seek medical attention immediately.

Neither Truvada nor Descovy should be taken if you are taking certain medications like rifampicin, St. John's Wort among others which can reduce their effectiveness. Always inform your physician about all the medicines that you are taking; these drugs might require a period of clearance from your system to prevent dangerous interactions with Truvada and Descovy.

In addition to this, when using either medication it is crucial not to miss doses as this could make HIV more difficult to treat due to resistance. Remember also that they do not prevent other sexually transmitted diseases or pregnancy so precautions must still be taken.

How much do Truvada and Descovy cost?

For the brand name versions of these drugs:

  • The price for 30 tablets of Truvada (200 mg/300 mg) averages around $2,000, which works out to about $66/day.
  • The price for 30 tablets of Descovy (200 mg/25 mg) is roughly the same at approximately $2,000 per month or around $66/day.

Thus, in terms of cost alone there may be little difference between Truvada and Descovy. However, it's important to remember that cost should not be your primary consideration when choosing a medication. Your healthcare provider will help you decide which drug is right for you based on factors such as your overall health condition and potential side effects.

As yet there are no generic versions available in the United States for either Truvada or Descovy due to patent protection laws. This means prices remain high compared with many other prescription medications. Always check with your insurance provider regarding coverage options before starting any new treatment plan.

Popularity of Truvada and Descovy

Emtricitabine/tenofovir disoproxil, known by its brand name Truvada, was estimated to have been prescribed to about 205,000 people in the US in 2019. This two-drug combination accounted for a significant proportion of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) prescriptions used to prevent HIV infection. Despite concerns regarding kidney and bone side effects with long-term use, the prevalence of Truvada has generally increased since it received approval from FDA as a PrEP medication in 2012.

On the other hand, emtricitabine/tenofovir alafenamide or Descovy is a newer formulation that aims to provide similar efficacy with fewer potential side effects on bones and kidneys. Approved for PrEP by the FDA in October 2019, its prescription rates are expectedly lower than those of Truvada due to its recent entry into the market and initial restrictions limiting its use only among men who have sex with men and transgender women at risk of contracting HIV through sexual activity. However, these restrictions were lifted in August 2020 which may contribute towards an increase in Descovy's prevalence over time.


Both Truvada and Descovy are effective medications used in the treatment of HIV infection, also commonly used for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent the acquisition of HIV in individuals at high risk. These two drugs have been supported by multiple clinical trials demonstrating their effectiveness over placebo treatments. Both drugs combine two different antiretroviral agents that work synergistically to inhibit HIV replication.

When it comes to choosing between these two, it is primarily down to individual patient characteristics and considerations around potential side effects. Descovy has a better renal and bone safety profile than Truvada, making it a preferred choice for patients with kidney disease or osteoporosis.

However, unlike Truvada which can be prescribed as PrEP for all genders, Descovy's approval excludes those who engage in receptive vaginal sex due its lack of research data within this population.

Both medications do come with generic versions representing significant cost savings especially for out-of-pocket payers. As with any other medication regimen, an adjustment period may be required before noticeable effects on patient well-being become evident.

The adverse effect profiles are similar between both drugs but generally tolerable; however patients should consult their healthcare provider immediately if they experience worsening symptoms or have concerns about potential side effects such as lactic acidosis or severe hepatomegaly.