What Is the Mechanism of Action of Tenofovir?

Being informed on how to protect and treat the virus is very important than getting additional medications due to adverse reactions that may further damage your health. Read on as we cover in-depth and helpful usage of tenofovir pills, its mechanism of action as well as how the pills remain effectiveness in your body.

Being infected with HIV-1 doesn’t mean it’s the end of your life. Most infected people live with thoughts that they can’t live to their full potential to pursue their life goals (or be productive) and enjoy their precious life. Truth is, HIV/AIDS is manageable and effectively treatable.

With highly cost-effective antiretroviral meds, you can find comfort and lead a happy healthier life. Antiretroviral meds such as Tenofovir kill the virus replication and help the immune system gain the defense you need to fight infections or viruses that might enter your body.

Other than used in combination with other antiretroviral agents for preventing and treating HIV/AIDS, Tenofovir is also used in the management of chronic hepatitis B (HBV). In this case, a continuous test (spanning for several months) should be carried out on liver function test after you stop medication with tenofovir. Hep B may become active or get worse right after stopping the use of this drug.

Like any other medication, it’s advisable to first check your health prior to using tenofovir medication. A doctor should thoroughly access your health for the presence of any ailments that may interfere with the normal functioning of tenofovir tablets.

It’s also important to understand how this drug is used (dosage information), its precautions and warnings as well as drug interactions. That’s what we do at HIVPrEP. Giving you the right information for various medications to help you stay safe and healthy.

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💊What Is Tenofovir Disoproxil Fumarate Used For?

In fighting the replication (virus increase) of HIV-1 and HBV infection, tenofovir used with other drugs as a combination to provide an effective mechanism to fight the virus from replication and giving your body immune system strength to fight the infection [1].

Drug combinations include meds from these drug classes:

  • NRTI drugs such as abacavir, stavudine, lamivudine, didanosine, zalcitabine, and zidovudine;
  • NNRTI antiretroviral drugs such as delavirdine, nevirapine, and efavirenz;
  • protease inhibitors, for example, indinavir, nelfinavir, amprenavir, ritonavir, and saquinavir.

It’s the most needed drug in everyday health due to its overwhelming efficacy and tolerability. It’s a drug that’s characterized by fewer side effects. To make it most tolerable, a patient must strictly adhere to the doctor’s (or healthcare provider’s) advice on how to use the pills and what should be avoided to limit the chances of attaining drug reactions that may alter how the pills (including other drugs) perform in fighting the virus.

🔍How Does It Work?

Before explaining how tenofovir work, it’s important to note the following actions:

  • reverse transcriptase (also known as nucleoside analogs)– is a viral DNA polymerase that is needed for multiplication of HIV and other retroviruses. Nucleoside analogs contain nucleotides (a basic compound forming DNA) which are primarily used by reverse transcriptase to convert RNA to DNA;
  • reverse-transcriptase inhibitors (or RTIs) – are meds from a class of antiretroviral used to medicate HIV infection or AIDS as well as HBV;
  • CD4 cells – a type of white blood cell responsible for protecting the body from infection (it is part of a building block of a strong body immune system). HIV-1 uses the action of CD4 cells to make copies (duplication) of itself. The more it replicate, the more it expands throughout the body and the more it weakens the organs and processes of the body that provide resistance to infection and toxins.

Then what’s tenofovir mechanism of action? Having been hydrolyzed to tenofovir, it’s then phosphorylated to tenofovir diphosphate. This molecule inhibits the pursuit of HIV-1 reverse transcriptase – a mechanism which HIV-1 virus uses to replicate – by blocking its action. When the processes of reverse transcriptase are blocked, the HIV-1 mechanism of action is terminated making it harder to replicate itself [2].

Though it doesn’t fully work as a curing drug, it ultimately limits the speed of virus multiplication by prohibiting nucleotides from being used by HIV-1 to create copies of itself. On the other hand, when the virus is kept from multiplying, CD4 cells are increased in numbers. The more the replication of CD4 cells, the more the body build up a strong immune system and the more your body stay healthier [3].

⏱How Long Does Tenofovir Take to Start Working?

When administering this drug, it’s very important to know its initial working time (first effect). The effects depend on the person’s preference in taking the tab. Tenofovir initial effect takes around 36 to 84 minutes to start working in the body when taken in a dry (without food) state. If taken with meals (especially a high-fat meal), its initial effect becomes functional between an estimated span of 96 minutes to around 144 minutes [4].

With a single dosage, tenofovir terminal elimination half-life is estimated to be 17 hours. This varies as the clearance of tenofovir is largely depended on the patient renal function.


  1. Tenofovir disoproxil. Drugbank.ca.
  2. Tenofovir disoproxil: Mechanism of action. Wikipedia.org.
  3. HIV Replication cycle. Wikipedia.org.
  4. Tenofovir Disoproxil Fumarate. Drugs.com.
Logan Morris

Expert in pharmaceutical practice and antiviral medicine, founder of HIVPrEP. Main goal is to popularize HIV topics and create awareness for global masses on how to prevent the disease and how to use HIV medication safely.

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