Descovy is a prescription medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use as PrEP. PrEP is pre-exposure prophylaxis, a preventative measure against HIV infection. Descovy is also available as an HIV medication. Descovy is a brand-name medication taken once a day as an oral tablet. At this time, a generic of this medication is currently not available.
What is PrEP?
Pre-exposure prophylaxis refers to any HIV medication taken by an HIV-negative person before exposure to HIV. This preventative approach helps minimize the probability of contracting HIV, mainly if patients take it as prescribed. PrEP is ideal for anyone at high risk of acquiring HIV. These individuals might include:
-Anyone regularly engaging in injectable drug use that shares needles or other drug paraphernalia.
– anyone who has sex without a condom with a partner of unknown HIV status
– anyone that has sex with an HIV-positive partner without a condom
– an individual that has required PEP medications in the past, particularly if multiple occurrences
– previous history of sexually transmitted infection within the last six months
– sexually active individuals who frequently trade sex for food, shelter, money, or drugs
How Does Descovy work as PrEP?
This drug was approved for use as pre-exposure prophylaxis for HIV. Descovy for PrEP contains two active drugs: tenofovir alafenamide and emtricitabine. These drugs prevent HIV from duplicating itself by blocking a specific enzyme that HIV needs to multiply. Descovy prevents the virus from starting an attack against your immune system, blocking the ability to enter your CD4 cells. As such, HIV can’t grow or spread within the host.
Previous studies have shown that Descovy works well as PrEP for HIV. The CDC recommends using Descovy for HIV PrEP for at-risk individuals.
How Effective is Descovy?
Clinical trials considered Descovy for HIV PrEP by evaluating men who have sex with men, as well as transgender women who have sex with men. Ciswomen weren’t assessed during this study. Participants in the study received Descovy or another popular PrEP medication. After 48 and 96 weeks of PrEP, the drug was 99.7% effective.
How to Use Descovy
Descovy is currently approved for use as pre-exposure prophylaxis for HIV. It is available as an oral tablet containing two different drugs. All tablets are available in 200 milligrams (mg)/ 25 mg tenofovir alafenamide. The standard dose is one tablet daily. Descovy is also available to treat HIV; however, the dosage is the same for both uses. Individuals can take this medication with or without food. It needs to be taken at the same time every single day for optimal protection.
Who Can Use Descovy?
Currently, Descovy is approved for use by people at high risk of HIV. Adults and adolescents who weigh at least 77 pounds may take this medication. At this time, Descovy is not approved for cis females or trans men at risk for contracting HIV through vaginal sex. All individuals taking Descovy will need a negative HIV test result immediately before starting treatment. Ongoing use of this medicine will require an HIV test every three months.
Side Effects with Descovy
The majority of the side effects reported with Descovy are mild. Very rarely, side effects may be severe and should be discussed with your doctor. Mild side effects include fatigue or lack of energy, abdominal pain or discomfort, headache, nausea, or diarrhea. These effects are mostly temporary and last a few days. Users can treat the side effects (such as a headache), as needed. Contact your pharmacist or doctor if these side effects persist or become severe.
Serious side effects from Descovy are rare but can occur in some individuals. Serious side effects can include worsening of hepatitis B, kidney problems, lactic acidosis, liver damage, or an allergic reaction. It’s essential to contact your doctor immediately if you develop these symptoms. If your issue is life-threatening, go to your nearest emergency department or call 911. A resistance to Descovy treatment is possible, although rare. This resistance would limit the effectiveness of preventing HIV.
While developing serious side effects are rare, it’s important to discuss any concerns you have with Descovy with your doctor immediately. Your doctor will determine if PrEP is right for you based on your risk factors for HIV.