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Truvada and Possible Side Effects

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Many people have also seen a Truvada commercial discussing something called PrEP. In some cases, Truvada is also prescribed to prevent someone from getting HIV, also known as Truvada for PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis). 

Truvada PrEP is an effective way to prevent someone from contracting the HIV virus.

The Truth About Truvada and Its Uses

In this article:

What is Truvada Used For?

Emtricitabine/tenofovir, which is sold as the brand name Truvada, is a prescription medication that has become popular in treating HIV and AIDS. Its uses include reducing the number of copies of HIV in the bloodstream, treating the symptoms of HIV and AIDS, and even HIV prevention. This medication is a combination of two different popular and effective antiviral drugs.  In some situations, it might be prescribed alone. In other cases, it is used in combination with other HIV treatments. Importantly, Truvada is taken by mouth.

How Does Truvada Work?

The Truvada drug belongs to a class of medication called a reverse transcriptase inhibitor. The HIV virus replicates its DNA with the help of an enzyme called reverse transcriptase. DNA replication is one of the required steps for the HIV virus to reproduce. Truvada works by binding to the reverse transcriptase, preventing it from replicating the HIV virus’s DNA. ingThis reduces people’s viral load, helping to treat their symptoms. Like other medications, the Truvada drug does have its risks. Without replicating its DNA, the HIV virus cannot divide and produce more copies of the virus.

Truvada Side Effects: Know the Risks

While Truvada and Truvada PrEP has proven effective in treating and preventing HIV/AIDS, there are still several risks that come with taking this medication. Some of the common Truvada side effects include:

  • Chronic, recurrent headaches that could make it hard for someone to focus or sleep
  • Abdominal pain that could lead to a loss of appetite, causing weight loss
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea

While these are a few common side effects, there are also more rare, severe side effects. These include:

  • Reduced Bone Density: One of the dangerous Truvada side effects is reduced bone density. Those who take Truvada might lose calcium from their bones. This leads to a lower bone density, weakening the bone structure and making it easier for someone to sustain bone fractures.
  • Lactic Acidosis: Sometimes, people who take Truvada might experience elevations of lactate in the bloodstream. With a higher level of lactate, the pH of the blood starts to drop. This reduced blood pH could lead to severe organ damage such as the kidneys and the liver. Those with a chronic liver infection, such as hepatitis B, might be at an increased risk of liver damage.
  • Mental Health Disorders: In some cases, people who take Truvada could experience the development of mental health disorders, such as depression. Depression could lead to an increased risk of suicidal ideation. Those who are experiencing symptoms of depression while taking Truvada need to speak with their doctor immediately.
 Long-Term Impacts of Dangerous Truvada Side Effects

Even though Truvada uses have benefits, those who suffer from these severe side effects could face irreparable consequences. Some of the implications of these side effects include:

  • Additional Medical Care: Those who experience dangerous Truvada side effects, such as liver failure or kidney damage, could require extra care from specialists. Those who develop kidney failure could require long-term dialysis multiple times per week. Individuals who suffer from depression might need to take other medications prescribed by a psychiatrist.
  • Possible Surgical Procedures: In some situations, the complications from Truvada could be so severe that people might need surgery. Individuals who develop liver or kidney failure might need a transplant to save their life. Those who require an organ transplant could end up having to take immunosuppressive medications to protect their transplanted organ for the rest of their life.
  • Financial Implications: Many of these medical and surgical complications require the attention of a specialist. Specialty care is expensive, and some individuals, particularly those waiting for an organ transplant, could be denied care based on an inability to pay. Those who need to take additional medications for the long-term could have to shoulder added medical costs for the rest of their life.

This video provides an in-depth look at the risks of Truvada.

Contraindications and Alternatives to Truvada

There are certain situations, called contraindications, in which Truvada should not be taken. In medicine, contraindication is why specific medical treatments should not be used because they could be harmful to the patient. Some of the contraindications to Truvada include:

  • HIV Resistance: HIV is a virus that mutates rapidly and can develop resistance to certain HIV medications. If someone is infected with a strain of HIV resistant to Truvada, they should not take Truvada.
  • Hepatitis B: Someone with hepatitis B should not take Truvada if they are also infected with HIV. Hepatitis B damages the liver and could make it more likely for someone to develop long-term liver damage by taking Truvada.
  • Lactic Acidosis: Someone who develops lactic acidosis, or has a history of lactic acidosis, should not take Truvada. Taking Truvada makes it more likely for someone to develop lactic acidosis, a life-threatening side effect.

Fortunately, those who are not candidates for Truvada do have alternate HIV/AIDS treatment medications that they can take. According to the guidelines from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), some alternatives include:

  • Bictegravir/tenofovir with alafenamide/emtricitabine
  • Dolutegravir/abacavir/lamivudine
  • Dolutegravir with tenofovir/emtricitabine

These medications all have their own side effects and risks. HIV treatment regimens must be dictated by a trained medical professional.

Truvada FAQ

Who Uses Truvada?

Truvada is used both by people who have HIV and those who do not. Truvada can be used to treat an active HIV infection, and it can be used to prevent someone from contracting HIV. Therefore, anyone who has HIV or who might be exposed to HIV might be prescribed Truvada.

Why Use Truvada?

Truvada is used because it has been proven effective in treating and preventing HIV, called Truvada for PrEP. Furthermore, in clinical trials, it was shown to be well-tolerated by patients and effective in controlling the viral load of HIV.

What Does Truvada Do To Your Body?

Truvada works by inhibiting an enzyme that plays a crucial role in replicating the HIV virus; however, it can also lead to several side effects. The Truvada side effects include a lower bone mineral density, lactic acidosis, and the possible development of HIV resistance.

When is Truvada Effective?

Truvada is effective when taken as prescribed. For those who are treating an active HIV infection, Truvada is typically prescribed with other HIV medications to prevent resistance from developing. In Truvada PrEP, it might be prescribed alone; however, it must be taken as prescribed.

How Common Are Truvada Side Effects?

Everyone responds to medications differently, and some side effects are more common than others. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are relatively common during the first few weeks of taking the medication, and these usually fade over time. The more severe side effects discussed above are rare but could require someone to stop taking the drug.

Legal Action Resulting from Truvada

While all medicines have side effects, the manufacturer’s responsibility is to be aware of these side effects and adequately warn healthcare professionals and consumers. Truvada, manufactured by pharmaceutical giant Gilead, has been the target of several major lawsuits stemming from the damage Truvada has caused to many individuals and families.

  • Claims Over Gilead’s Failure to Warn: One of the lawsuits that have been filed against Gilead alleged that the company either knew or should have known about the severe side effects of Truvada. . T’Manufacturers of medications are legally required to warn patients, doctors, and the public about the potential dangers of their drugs. This information helps doctors and their patients make informed decisions about their healthcare. Some drug companies might not want to fully disclose the side effects of their medications because it might hurt their sales. This is illegal and places countless families at risk. Because Gilead failed to warn doctors and patients of these risks. The lawsuits claim that Gilead should be held accountable for medical expenses and other costs related to Truvada’s side effects.
  • A Safer Alternative Withheld by Gilead: Another type of lawsuit alleges that Gilead had a safer version of Truvada and concealed this medication. This drug is tenofovir alafenamide, often abbreviated TAF. The lawsuit claims that Gilead withheld TAF from the market, even after knowing it was a safer alternative because Truvada had only been recently patented. Therefore, it still had many years ahead of it, where it could make Gilead a lot of money. While Gilead announced earlier that it would stop researching TAF, they said that TAF might be making a return to the market. Of course, this announcement came as patients for Truvada were running out. If Gilead had finished researching and had released TAF earlier, families could have been spared from the side effects of TDF.
Recovering Damages from Truvada

There are channels through which families can recover financial damages stemming from Truvada. Some of these damages include:

  • Medical expenses related to hospital stays surgeries, and emergency room visits.
  • Income that might have been lost due to the inability to work.
  • Possible punitive damages against Gilead.
  • Damages related to pain and suffering caused by Truvada.

If Gilead withheld information related to Truvada or withheld a safer alternative to Truvada, they need to be held accountable. Their action and inaction placed countless families in harm’s way.

Sacramento Truvada Injury Lawyer

It is normal to have questions after experiencing the dangerous side effects of prescription medications. If you are taking Truvada and had experienced side effects, you’ll need the guidance of a Truvada lawyer. Please reach out to our injury attorneys at (800) 404-5400 or (916) 921-6400 to receive free, friendly legal guidance and advice.

We are members of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and the National Association of Distinguished Counsel.

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DISCLAIMER: This document is for informational purposes only and does not constitute a Retainer/Services Agreement. No attorney-client relationship will exist between you and our firm unless and until we enter into a signed Retainer/Services Agreement. The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, medical or legal advice. Do not stop taking any medication without consulting your physician.

Editor’s Note: This page has been updated for accuracy and relevancy [cha 9.30.21]

Image Attribution: Pixabay

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