Go back

What Are the Side Effects of Descovy?

Descovy is the most recent prescription medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration for PrEP. The instances of side effects from the use of Descovy have been reported as mild to moderate and occur in less than 5% of Descovy users. Depending on your health history or medicines you are currently taking, Descovy may lead to uncommon adverse reactions, reduce the effectiveness of your medications, or compromise treatments. Our medical team here at Nurx™ can answer your questions about Descovy to help decide if it’s the right PrEP for you.

Common Side Effects

Side effects can sometimes accompany new medication when it is first introduced into the body and while your system is adapting to the medicine. Most side effects of Descovy are mild and diminish over time with consistent use. Contact your Nurx medical provider if your symptoms aren’t going away or if they become a concern.

The most common side effects reported are:

  • Diarrhea.
  • Nausea.
  • Headache.
  • Fatigue.
  • Insomnia.

A Snapshot of Descovy

To reduce instances of side effects, tell the team at Nurx or your local healthcare provider about conditions or circumstances that may interact with Descovy. Avoid adverse reactions by knowing how Descovy works with your body, medications, or treatments.

  • Potential exposure to HIV. Those currently testing positive for HIV are not candidates for Descovy. Even if you’ve recently been tested, if there is a chance you may have been exposed to HIV, get tested again before starting Descovy.
  • Renal impairment or medications for renal function. Renal conditions may be worsened by the addition of Descovy.
  • Allergies to HIV medications: If you have experienced allergic reactions to HIV medications, you may experience an allergic reaction to Descovy.
  • Liver problems, especially Hepatitis B infection. New candidates for Descovy must be tested for hepatitis B before beginning this medication. Using Descovy while infected with hep B can lead to impairment or failure of liver function.
  • Kidney problems. If you currently experience kidney impairment or are taking medications for liver conditions, Descovy may adversely react with those medicines.
  • Bone density. Descovy may compromise bone health. Users are advised to have regular bone scans while taking Descovy. The good news is Descovy shows fewer bone density effects than Truvada, and in some cases, increased bone density has been observed.
  • Non-prescription medications like vitamins, supplements, and herbal products, especially St. John’s wort. Since medications and supplements can interact with Descovy, be sure you know all the medications, both prescription and over-the-counter, before starting Descovy.
  • Flu-like illness or symptoms. Since these can be a sign of HIV infection, get tested for HIV before starting or continuing Descovy.
  • Pregnancy or breastfeeding. Descovy is not recommended for pregnant women because of the lack of studies on Descovy’s effects on a developing baby. Since Descovy can leach into breastmilk, it is not recommended for nursing mothers.

Serious Side Effects

When combining Descovy with other medications, or if you have recently completed HIV treatment, you may be at a higher risk of developing serious side effects. While these effects are rare, certain health histories or medications may elevate their likelihood.

Descovy can encourage the buildup of lactic acid in the blood and lead to lactic acidosis. This condition comes with several warning signs. Alert your local healthcare professional if you experience any symptoms of lactic acidosis:

  • Weakness or tiredness.
  • Unusual muscle pain.
  • Shortness of breath or fast breathing.
  • Stomach pain with nausea and vomiting.
  • Cold or blue hands and feet.
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness.
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat.

Descovy is not approved for the treatment of hepatitis B. In fact, it may interact negatively if you test positive for hepatitis B, so if that’s the case, Descovy should not be prescribed.

Taking Descovy may worsen severe liver conditions or diseases such as cirrhosis. Seek medical attention if you experience any of these signs of liver failure:

  • Yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes (jaundice).
  • Dark-colored urine.
  • Light-colored bowel movements.
  • Loss of appetite for several days or longer.
  • Vomiting.
  • Pain in your stomach area.

Descovy may cause changes to your immune system. Immune Reconstitution Inflammatory Syndrome, or IRIS, sometimes occurs in conjunction with PrEP medicines. IRIS most often occurs when the immune system starts to recover after treatment with HIV medications. As the immune system strengthens, it may cause an increased response to infections that haven’t been detected yet. Although studies aren’t conclusive as to the relation, some autoimmune diseases such as Grave’s disease (thyroid imbalance) and Polymyositis (inflammation of muscle and surrounding tissues) have been reported with the use of Descovy.

Allergic Reactions

Allergic reactions are rare, but they can occur. If you have a known allergy to either emtricitabine (FTC) or tenofovir alafenamide (TAF), the active ingredients in Descovy, you risk an allergic reaction with the use of this PrEP. Seek attention from your local medical provider if you experience any of these allergy symptoms:

  • Rash.
  • Hives.
  • Itching.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Swelling of the face or throat.

Interference With Medications

Descovy may interfere with medications, supplements, or herbal products. More specifically, Descovy may interact with:

  • Renal function medicines. For those taking medications for renal impairment or function, renal-related adverse reactions are heightened when taking Descovy. Creatine levels should be monitored closely while taking Descovy.
  • Metabolism. Medications that inhibit P-gp (a plasma protein that acts as a cellular transport mechanism) can increase concentrations of TAF, an active ingredient in Descovy. Medications that do the opposite and induce P-gp may decrease levels of TAF, which can make Descovy less effective.

Descovy is a safe and effective PrEP when taken consistently. Although some side effects may occur, they are usually short-lived and mild and affect less than 5% of active Descovy users. Descovy is the next choice in PrEP and can help protect you with little to no adverse effects. Contact our team here at Nurx to talk about the medications and supplements you’re taking and your health history so we can help you make an informed decision about your PrEP medication.

Back to top