Truvada and Descovy are the two FDA-approved PrEP medications available in the US.
PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis, is a once-per-day medication that is over 99% effective at preventing HIV when taken as prescribed.
In fact, PrEP is so effective, that the Australian government subsidized the cost and HIV rates in the LGBTQ community dropped to their lowest numbers in 20 years.
Let’s take a quick look into how PrEP works, and which PrEP medication you should take.
How Truvada and Descovy Work
PrEP medications use antiretrovirals, or ARVs.
Simply put, antiretrovirals prevent HIV from replicating in your body, and consequently stopping the virus from spreading to your cells.
Most PrEP medications will use a combination of two ARVs to increase their effectiveness. In other words, it’s sort of like taking a combination pill for HIV prevention.
In the United States, the two most commonly prescribed PrEP medications are Truvada and Descovy.
Let’s take a look at each!
Descovy vs Truvada PrEP History
The FDA approved Truvada (Emtricitabine and Tenofovir) nearly two decades ago, initially as a treatment against HIV infection. However, after several years of research, scientists found that Truvada is highly effective as a preventative method against HIV.
Descovy is a much newer medication and only received FDA approval towards the end of 2019, but it is very similar to Truvada.
Gilead Sciences developed both Truvada and Desovy and each includes a combination of emtricitabine and tenofovir.
How Effective are Truvada and Descovy?
When taken as prescribed, Truvada and Descovy are highly effective at preventing HIV.
In fact, PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV through sex by about 99% and by at least 74% among people who inject drugs.
PrEP reaches maximum effectiveness for receptive anal sex at about 7 days of daily use, while for receptive vaginal sex and injection drug use it takes about 21 days.
Truvada and Descovy have repeatedly demonstrated similar rates of effectiveness.
Side Effects of Truvada and Descovy
Both medications have low rates of lasting side effects.
However, some people may experience symptoms when they first start on either drug. Some of the side effects patients report experiencing include:
- Mild weight loss (Truvada)
- Decreases in cholesterol levels (Truvada)
- Fatigue (Truvada)
- Diarrhea (Descovy)
- Weight Gain (Descovy)
- Raised Triglycerides (Descovy)
- Nausea (Descovy)
In extremely rare cases, side effects from Truvada may include kidney issues and decreases in bone density, though according to the National Institute of Health, these symptoms are almost always reversible.
If you experience lasting or severe symptoms, talk with your doctor immediately to discuss alternative options.
Is Descovy The Same As Truvada?
Descovy is not the same as Truvada, however each have a lot of similarities.
For example, both drugs use a combination of Emtricitabine and Tenofovir in addition to showing almost identical rates of effectiveness.
Gilead Sciences developed Truvada and Descovy and each uses the same mechanism to prevent HIV-1.
However, there are some key differences between the two HIV PrEP pills.
What Is The Difference Between Descovy and Truvada?
The main difference between Descovy and Truvada is the form of Tenofovir each uses.
Truvada uses tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF) while Descovy uses the newer tenofovir alafenamide (TAF).
Tenofovir alafenamide (Descovy) is more efficient than TDF. As a result, it maintains effectiveness at a lower dose which in turn reduces the negative side effects of Tenofovir.
This is why many believe that Descovy has fewer severe side effects compared to Truvada.
However, both have the same level of effectiveness when taken as prescribed.
How Much do Truvada and Descovy Cost?
Truvada and Descovy unfortunately come at quite a high cost, usually around $1,400 per month.
Truvada tends to be slightly cheaper and covered by more insurance plans than Desocvy. Furthermore, the FDA recently approved a generic version of Truvada that may help lower costs significantly.
All that said, some companies like here at NowPrEP Telehealth have made both Descovy and Truvada for PrEP much more affordable and accessible by providing online prescriptions, $0 copays, and free medication delivery.
Visit nowrx.com/nowprep to learn more.
Truvada or Descovy – Which Should I Take?
The HIV PrEP pill that is right for you will depend on a number of factors.
This includes things like how much you weigh, what sex you were assigned at birth, and more.
If you are considering PrEP, have an open and honest conversation with your doctor.
Based on your medical history, they will be able to guide you toward the proper PrEP medication and make adjustments in treatment as needed.