Truvada (emtricitabine/tenofovir disoproxil fumarate) is a backbone medication. It is used in combination with other antiviral drugs for treating HIV and preventing HIV in people who are exposed to the virus. It is important to know that this medication does not cure HIV. It is highly effective in the prevention of HIV. When used as an HIV prevention tablet, it is called pre-exposure prophylaxis.
New studies suggest that this drug has some added benefits such as the ability to reduce the possibility of herpes infection. However, at this time, it is used mostly as a treatment for HIV and as a preventive measure .
A number of side effects have been observed among users of the medication. These effects may be mild or severe, depending on the circumstances and body system of the user. It is important to note that side effects are observed only in a minority of Truvada users and in most cases, these side effects do not last for long. In cases where the adverse reactions are severe and long-term, there are ways to identify and take care of these side effects.
🔍What Are the Side Effects of Truvada?
Just like most antiviral medications, it may take a while for one’s body system to adjust to Truvada. Within the period it takes for the body to adjust to this medication, one may experience some side effects/adverse reactions .
In some cases, Truvada side effects may be very mild and short-lived. These types of side effects are more common and include symptoms such as nausea, headaches, dizziness and other mild symptoms.
However, the drug could have more serious and long-term consequences. These adverse reactions are usually observed after an extended period of use.
⌛How Long Do They Last?
The side effects of Truvada could last for a period of time, depending on how severe they are. The more common and mild adverse reactions do not last for long. They fade and disappear immediately the body gets used to the medication. Usually, these mild effects are observed swiftly and fade just as quickly within a matter of weeks.
In cases of more serious consequences, they could last for a longer period of time. These side effects can be handled by a professional health care provider. Usually, they reverse and disappear after one stops using the drug.
😵Common Side Effects of Truvada
Some adverse reactions of Truvada are observed more often than the others. Some of the common side effects of this drug include , :
- nausea and vomiting: Some users of this med often feel nauseous as a result of the medication. In some cases, they throw up frequently;
- insomnia: In some cases, people who use this med experience a change in sleeping patterns or loss of sleep;
- diarrhea and stomach pains: Often, people who use this med experience diarrhea and stomach/abdominal pains;
- skin rashes and itching: This drug could result in adverse skin reactions such as an outbreak of some skin rash or lead to severe itching. In some cases, one could experience an outbreak of acne;
- back pain and joint pain: Some users have observed and reported cases of pain in the lower back and body joints;
- changes in the location and shape of body fat: One may experience weight loss or a complete change in the shape and location of body fat;
- headache: The use of this drug could cause mild or severe headaches in users. These headaches are usually frequent but do not last for long. They usually fade within a week or two;
- dizziness: Some users may experience dizziness after commencing preventive treatment with this drug.
People frequently ask if conditions such as constipation and hair loss are a potential side effect of this drug. However, in all clinical trials carried out on Truvada, there were no cases of constipation or hair loss. Individuals experiencing mild or severe hair loss should report to their healthcare provider for proper checkup and follow up.
What’s more, people with diabetes should not take diabetes or insulin pills alongside with Truvada to prevent interactions that may result in complications. Diabetic patients should monitor their blood sugar level constantly while on PrEP. It is also important that they speak to their healthcare provider about their condition.
The side effects listed above are common among people who use the drug as a pre-exposure prophylaxis medication or HIV treatment pill. In most cases, they do not last for a long period of time.
T could he use of this drug may also have some serious consequences. These consequences could be observed within the first few weeks of using it or after an extended period of usage. It is worthy of note that only very few people get to experience these side effects, and in a majority of cases, they arise due to incorrect usage of the drug.
Some of the serious consequences of include:
- changes in the amount and color of urine: Some users of this drug could observe a change in the amount of urine they pass out daily. In some cases, the color of the urine could change to pink or take on a bloody appearance. This is usually an indicator of liver problems;
- changes in mental health and mood: use of this drug could result in severe changes to one’s mental health and mood. Users may begin to suffer from depression, anxiety or mood swings;
- lactic acidosis: In some cases, the drug could cause lactic acidosis (a condition whereby there is an excess of lactic acid in the blood) in users. Lactic acidosis is a very serious medical condition that is characterized by fatigue, dizziness, faster and shorter heartbeats, and pain in the muscles or joints;
- reduction or loss of bone density: The use of this drug as a treatment for HIV or PrEP medications could result in a loss of bone density. The user could experience a thinning or softening of the bones. This increases the chances of suffering or developing a bone fracture;
- kidney problems: Using this prophylaxis pills could result in some kidney problems or could tamper with the general functions of the kidney. As a result, tests should be carried out before and during the use of the drug in order to determine the health of the kidney;
- neuropathy: This drug may be capable of causing peripheral neuropathy, but the chances are very low. Neuropathy is numbness, weakness, and/or pain that is usually experienced in the hands or feet usually caused by nerve damage.
- loss of appetite: Some users of the drug could experience a drastic loss of appetite. This adverse reaction could have serious consequences as it may lead to weight loss or health complications. In some cases, loss of appetite is an indicator of liver problems;
- pancreatitis: this is the inflammation of the pancreas caused by early activation of the digestive enzyme before it is released into the small intestine. Though this disease is suspected to be caused by anti-HIV drugs, it is yet to be confirmed. At the moment, pancreatitis is infrequent and hardly recognized amongst users of the pills.
- liver problems: It could cause some liver problems and issues. Some common indicators of liver problems which users should watch out for include: yellowing of the skin and eyes, changes in the amount and color of urine, light-colored stool and loss of appetite.
The older version of the antiretroviral agent tenofovir was found to cause certain kidney conditions such as kidney stones. However, the recent version appears to be way safer for consumption.
In some cases, stopping Truvada medications could cause a worsening of hepatitis B in users who already have the infection. Hence, users who experience any of the aforementioned side effects should consult their health care providers first before taking any action.
⏱Are There Any Long-Term Side Effects While Taking Truvada?
Long-term side effects are adverse reactions usually observed after using the prophylaxis medication for an extended period of time. A small percentage of drug users often observe side effects caused by the usage of the medication for a long period.
Two of the most common long-term side effects of Truvada include:
- reduction of bone density;
- kidney problems.
It is important to note that other long- term side effects may also occur, depending on one’s physiology.
📋What Should You Know to Avoid Adverse Reactions?
Truvada could cause a number of adverse reactions, depending on one’s body system. However, if you are considering using it as a pre-exposure prophylaxis measure, there are certain things you need to know:
- Truvada as a PrEP measure only works on HIV-negative people. Thus, if you want to use it as a means of preventing infection, you would need to run an HIV test to ensure that you are still negative;
- your kidney function needs to be monitored in order to ensure that you do not have any problem prior to commencing the medication;
- if you are infected with hepatitis B, you need to speak with your health care provider as stopping the meds could worsen the infection.
You would need to consult a doctor or a professional health care provider before commencing the pre-exposure prophylaxis strategy so as to ensure that it is suitable for you .
For individuals who are already using this medication as a PrEP medication, there are certain guidelines to be followed. These include:
- the pills are not an alternative to condoms. As such, one should always practice safe sex while on this medication;
- you would need to visit your health care provider regularly to run important tests and get monitored for kidney problems or a change in kidney functions;
- do not share your prophylaxis medication with other people.
It is important to be in constant contact with your healthcare provider. If you notice severe adverse reactions or effects, you should discuss with your health care provider in order to know how best to handle the side effects and the best actions to take. Pre-exposure prophylaxis medications should not be started or stopped without proper consultation with a licensed health care provider or doctor.
Truvada medications are very effective in preventing and treating HIV. It is important to speak with a doctor before commencing the HIV preventive strategy as it has several potential side effects. Most of these side effects are normal but if they become severe, it then becomes important to consult a doctor or healthcare provider.
Truvada is quite expensive and may not be affordable for the average person. However, there are several cheaper alternatives users can gain from. One of such alternatives involves going for the generic versions of the drug, approved  or tentatively approved by the FDA . The generic versions are just as effective as the brand name drugs.
More information about Truvada, how it works and its effectiveness can be found on HIVPrEP.
- Truvada: Dosage, Side effects, and Uses. Healthline.com. November 1, 2018.
- Taking Truvada for PrEP. Truvada.com. October 25, 2018.
- Managing Side Effects of HIV Medications. New York State Department of Health.
- FDA Approves Generic Truvada for HIV Treatment and PrEP. By Benjamin Ryan for poz.com. June 9, 2017.
- Approved and Tentatively Approved Antiretrovirals in Association with the President’s Emergency Plan – fda.gov. Retrieved August 31, 2018.