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What’s the Difference Between Descovy and Truvada?

The primary difference between Truvada and Descovy is the form of tenofovir that makes up each medication. Truvada contains the original form of tenofovir, also known as tenofovir disoproxil fumarate, while Descovy contains the newer form known as tenofovir alafenamide. Both drugs are prescribed by health care professionals to reduce your risk of contracting HIV.

The Approval of Descovy

The FDA recently approved the use of Descovy for the prevention of the HIV virus — only the second drug to achieve this approval. While the drug did receive approval, the approval came with the explicit exclusion of individuals who engage in receptive vaginal sex, as it has not yet been studied for its effectiveness.  Studies are underway in people assigned female at birth at risk of acquiring HIV via receptive vaginal sex.

Is Descovy Better Than Truvada?

While the use of a newer form of tenofovir may give patients the idea that Descovy is more effective than Truvada, there is nothing in any of the studies to indicate this. Both drugs are effective at preventing the contraction of HIV when taken daily. However, research has shown that Descovy is less likely than Truvada to negatively impact bone density or kidney function.

Get PrEP for HIV Prevention At Home

Nurx offers PrEP for HIV prevention for as little as $0 with insurance for medication.

Rare Side Effects of Descovy Use

There have also been rare side effects during trials in patients using Descovy. While most of these are more inconvenient than dangerous, they should be discussed with your health care provider if you experience them. Some of the less common side effects include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea 
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Abdominal Pain

Possible Risks Associated With Descovy

There are some risks associated with the use of Descovy. One of the largest issues is its risk of exacerbating hepatitis B. If prescribed for patients with hepatitis B, it is recommended that health care providers closely monitor hepatic function and maintain regular laboratory follow-up in these individuals. To reduce the risks associated with Descovy, it is also recommended that patients be tested and treated for other STIs before beginning use.

Along with an HIV test, patients should be asked questions about recent possible exposure to HIV and possible symptoms that can indicate the presence of the virus that has not developed far enough for the test to detect. Possible symptoms of an HIV infection include:

  • Fatigue
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Skin rashes

Possible Severe Side Effects

While severe side effects are rare, you should be monitored closely and report issues to your health care provider that could be linked to:

  • Renal impairment: There have been cases reported of acute renal failure and Fanconi syndrome. Your doctor will likely check your creatinine clearance to ensure that your renal function is where it should be, especially if you are taking NSAIDs. If there is any evidence of a decrease in renal function, the use of Descovy should be evaluated by your provider.
  • Lactic acidosis: Lactic acidosis or severe hepatomegaly with steatosis has been reported as a possible severe side effect with use. Your health care provider should monitor you for pronounced hepatotoxicity.

Nurx prescribes generic PrEP unless you have a medical reason why you must take Descovy.

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