PrEP for Preventing and treating HIV – Is generic emtricitabine/tenofovir as effective as brand-name Truvada®?
August 19, 2019
There are a lot of questions around PrEP and what medications may or may not do. You may have heard about PrEP, pre-exposure prophylaxis, as a way for people who do not currently have HIV, but who may be at risk of getting it, to prevent HIV infection by taking this medication every day.
How effective is PrEP?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “When taken consistently, PrEP has been shown to reduce the risk of HIV infection in people who are at risk by up to 92%.”
FACT: The generic medication is far more affordable than brand-name Truvada®.
Who is emtricitabine/tenofovir for?
- Patients taking emtricitabine/tenofovir (ET) must be tested and be HIV-negative before starting the medication and while taking the medication
- ET is for patients who are at risk for HIV-1.
- Patients taking ET must weigh a minimum of 77 pounds.
How does emtricitabine/tenofovir work?
Truvada® is the brand name of the generic medicine emtricitabine/tenofovir. This fixed-dose medication is a combination of two antiretroviral medications called tenofovir disoproxil fumarate and emtricitabine and is prescribed for the treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS.
Emtricitabine and tenofovir are in a class of medications known as nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs), which work to reduce the amount of HIV enzymes called reverse transcriptase. In doing so, the HIV is less likely to multiply and the amount of HIV in the body is reduced.
For those who want to take emtricitabine/tenofovir to prevent HIV/AIDS, it is to be used along with safe sex practices and it must be taken daily.
Is generic emtricitabine/tenofovir as effective as brand-name Truvada®?
According to research presented to the International Congress on Drug Therapy in HIV Infection (HIV Glasgow), tested generic PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) was shown to have the same amounts of emtricitabine and tenofovir as the brand name medication, Truvada®. (Source: Aidsmap.com)
How is Truvada® and emtricitabine/tenofovir prescribed?
Brand-name Truvada® is available in the following strength and amounts:
Truvada® 200 mg/300 mg – 30 tablets, 60 tablets, or 90 tablets.
One tablet is taken once a day, every day.
Emtricitabine/tenofovir is available in the following strength and amounts:
Emtricitabine/tenofovir – 200 mg/300 mg – 30 tablets, 60 tablets, or 90 tablets.
One tablet is taken once a day, every day.
Learn more about PrEP – an HIV prevention option, by watching this video.
What does emtricitabine/tenofovir NOT do?
- Emtricitabine/tenofovir does not prevent sexually transmitted diseases.
- Emtricitabine/tenofovir does not prevent pregnancy.
- Emtricitabine/tenofovir does not cure HIV/AIDS
It is important to know your HIV-1 status before taking emtricitabine/tenofovir.
It is important to know that HIV-1 tests may come back as negative in those who have recently been exposed to the HIV-1 virus. If you become ill with flu-like symptoms within the last 30 days before starting ET, you must tell your doctor.
If your blood tests confirm that you are HIV-1 positive, you will need to take other prescription medications, along with ET, to treat the HIV-1 infection. PrEP alone will not be a complete treatment for HIV-1.
What are the side effects of emtricitabine/tenofovir?
As with many prescription medications, there are side effects to be aware of. Speak to your doctor and pharmacist if you experience any of the following side effects:
- Bone changes – bone pain, bone thinning or softening which may lead to an increase in the risk of fractures.
- Liver damage – yellowing of the eyes and/or skin, dark colored urine, light-colored stools, nausea, and stomach pain.
- Kidney problems – it is critical that your doctor test your kidneys (through blood and urine tests) while you take ET to ensure your kidneys are healthy and to prevent kidney failure.
- Lactic acidosis – too much lactic acid in your blood. Symptoms include muscle pain, fast breathing, stomach pain, cold or blue hands and feet, lightheadedness, rapid or abnormal heartbeat.
This is NOT a complete list of possible side effects. Speak to your pharmacist about side effects.
It is not uncommon for patients to experience stomach pain, weight loss, and headache. However, it is important to tell your doctor if these symptoms are bothersome or do not go away.
Be sure to inform your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. Also, tell your doctor about any other medications you are taking and any other health concerns you might have.
This article contains medical information provided to help you better understand this particular medical condition or process, and may contain information about medication often used as part of a treatment plan prescribed by a doctor. It is not intended to be used as either a diagnosis or recommendation for treatment of your particular medical situation. If you are unwell, concerned about your physical or mental state, or are experiencing symptoms you should speak with your doctor or primary health care provider. If you are in medical distress please contact emergency services (such as 911).