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Descovy vs Truvada

written by Tessa Chatham Registered Nurse Written by Tessa Chatham Registered Nurse
Tessa Chatham Registered Nurse

Tessa Chatham Registered Nurse

Tessa is a MSN prepared Registered Nurse with 10 years of critical care experience in healthcare. When not practicing clinical nursing, she enjoys academic writing and is passionate about helping those affected by medical aliments live healthy lives.

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September 2, 2021 Read Time - 5 minutes

Descovy vs Truvada: Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis for HIV

Descovy and Truvada are medications prescribed to reduce the risk of HIV infections for those who are more likely to contract the illness.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 1.2 million people in the United States live with HIV and 35,000 people will contract HIV in the United States each year. This information fueled the need for medications that could be used as HIV preventatives, thereby reducing the number of people infected each year.

Truvada was developed by Gilead Sciences and approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in July 2012 for use for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP therapy). The World Health Organization recommends Truvada as the drug of choice for HIV PrEP therapy indicated for nonoccupational exposure. 

Another PrEP therapy drug has been created after Truvada hit the market. Descovy was also made by Gilead Sciences and was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2016. Both are commonly used to prevent the contraction and spread of HIV disease among vulnerable populations.

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    Our doctors operate in all 50 states and same day appointments are available every 15 minutes.

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Descovy vs Truvada

Descovy and Truvada are antiretroviral, reverse transcriptase inhibitor (Anti-HIV) medications used as pre-exposure prophylaxis, also known as PrEP.

Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is a term used to describe therapy taken to prevent the spread of disease in people who have not yet contracted the disease-causing agent. PrEP therapy is usually prescribed to prevent a viral infection. In this case, Descovy and Truvada are used to prevent HIV infection.

Descovy contains two ingredients (drugs) called emtricitabine and tenofovir alafenamide which prevent the HIV virus from multiplying (making copies of itself and thereby causing infection). Specifically, Descovy blocks a certain enzyme that HIV uses to multiply.

Truvada works similarly to Descovy by blocking an enzyme used to replicate the HIV virus. Truvada contains two ingredients (drugs) called tenofovir disoproxil fumarate and emtricitabine which prevent the HIV virus from multiplying. Descovy is a newer medication (approved in 2016) while Truvada has been on the market since 2012. Both are used as preventative medications to reduce the risk of HIV infection

The main differences between Descovy and Truvada are indication for use, contraindications, and side effects. Here is a chart that compares the similarities and differences between Descovy and Truvada:

DescovyTruvada
>99% Effective√√
Daily use√√
Effective for gay and bisexual cis men√√
Effective for trans women âˆšâˆš
Effective for trans men√
Effective for heterosexuals√
Effective for cis women√
Effective for people who inject drugs√
“Start-up” symptoms of diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting (usually resolve in 3 months)√√
Safe to use with osteoporosis√
Safe to use with kidney issues√
Weight loss√
Weight gain√
Increase cholesterol (triglyceride, LDL)√
Increases HDL cholesterol√
Cost: $1845/month without insurance√√

Descovy and Truvada Side Effects 

Medications related to HIV prevention and treatment are notorious for causing unpleasant side effects. Descovy and Truvada have been reported to have some side effects, especially within the first 3 months of taking it. It is reported that unpleasant symptoms can reside after 3 months, while routine blood work is common and necessary to monitor other body functions and to ensure safety while taking these medications.

The following are the most common side effects of Descovy:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Bone pain
  • Yellow eyes and skin
  • Exacerbation of hepatitis B
  • Skin rash (urticaria)
  • Fanconi’s syndrome
  • Decreased frequency or amount of urine
  • Swelling of the face, fingers and lower leg

Contraindications when taking Descovy include:

  • Patients with known HIV-1 positive status (patients must have a HIV negative test result prior to starting medication regimen).
  • Patients with known hepatitis B infection

The following are the most common side effects of Truvada:

  • Blisters under the skin
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • Bone fracture
  • Decreased bone mineral density

Contraindications when taking Truvada include:

  • Patients with unknown or HIV-1 positive status (patients must have a HIV negative test result prior to starting medication regimen).
  • Hypersensitivity to emtricitabine, tenofovir, or any component of the formulation.

Related: PrEP Side Effects


Descovy and Truvada Doses

Descovy is given once daily in tablet form. 

  • Daily dosing of one tablet (200mg) emtricitabine and (25 mg) tenofovir alafenamide
  • is used for prevention of HIV.
  • Dose and frequency adjustment may be performed by your doctor depending on significant drug interactions or signs of kidney injury.

Truvada is given once daily and on demand dosing in a tablet form. 

  • Daily dosing of Truvada includes one tablet (200 mg) of emtricitabine and 300 mg of tenofovir disoproxil fumarate in combination with safe sex practices. In men who have sex with men, some experts recommend initiated with a double dose (2 tablets) on day 1, followed by 1 tablet daily. 
  • On demand dosing (2-1-1) is indicated for men who have sex with men only. This is done by taking 2 tablets from 2 to 24 hours prior to sexual activity, 1 tablet 24 hours later and another tablet 24 hours after that. For people who use demand therapy more than once a week, only 1 tablet should be used as a loading dose (1-1-1). 
  • Book on our free mobile app or website.

    Our doctors operate in all 50 states and same day appointments are available every 15 minutes.

  • See a doctor, get treatment and a prescription at your local pharmacy.

  • Use your health insurance just like you normally would to see your doctor.

PlushCare-App-Steps

Get PrEP Online

Descovy and Truvada are available as online prescriptions. You can make an appointment to speak with an online doctor about treatment options related to HIV and HIV prevention. If you are more at risk to contract HIV, or simply want more information about PrEP therapy, talk with a PlushCare doctor today about treatment options. 

Most insurers are now required to cover the cost of PrEP medication, medical visits, and lab work and blood tests. If you have health insurance, we can help with insurance-related documents and authorizations to help make sure your PrEP care is covered and affordable.


Read More About Descovy vs Truvada for PrEP


Medications are prescribed at the sole discretion of a PlushCare physician. Prescriptions for non-controlled substances can only be written after a medical evaluation. Scheduling an appointment does not guarantee that a medication can or will be prescribed.


Sources:

PlushCare is dedicated to providing you with accurate and trustworthy health information.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. PrEP pre-exposure prophylaxis. Accessed on June 14, 2021 from https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/prep.html 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pre-exposure prophylaxis for the prevention of HIV infection in the United States- 2017 update. Accessed on June 14, 2021 from https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/pdf/risk/prep/cdc-hiv-prep-guidelines-2017.pdf 

HIV.gov. U.S. Statistics. Fast Facts. Accessed on June 21,2021 at https://www.hiv.gov/hiv-basics/overview/data-and-trends/statistics

Mayo Clinic. PrEP: How effective is it at preventing HIV? Accessed on June 22,2021 at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hiv-aids/expert-answers/prep-hiv/faq-20456940  

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Descovy. Accessed on June 21,2021 at https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2019/208215s012lbl.pdf

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Truvada. Accessed on June 21,2021 at https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2018/021752s055lbl.pdf

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. FDA approves second drug to prevent HIV infection as part of ongoing efforts to end the HIV epidemic. Accessed on June 22,2021 at https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-approves-second-drug-prevent-hiv-infection-part-ongoing-efforts-end-hiv-epidemic 

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