Truvada (PrEP) works with other HIV prevention measures to help lower your risk of HIV exposure. It works as intended and has incredible effects, but like all prescription drugs, you may experience side effects.
Your doctor will tell you all about the most common side effects found among new Truvada for PrEP users, but it’s also worth reading again so you can remain in charge of your health.
What are the side effects of Truvada? Here’s what to look out for.
The Most Common Side Effects of Truvada
All prescription drugs go through rigorous clinical trials before they receive approval for the general market. Manufacturers then report side effects that appear in at least two percent of study participants.
According to Gilead, the manufacturer of Truvada, the most common side effects that appeared during trials were:
- Abdominal pain
- Weight loss
Even though these were the top three side effects, they were also rare in the patient populations. Only 7 percent of patients during the trial experienced a headache. Additionally, four percent and three percent had abdominal pain or lost weight, respectively.
Other side effects reported with statistically significant less frequency include:
- Joint pain
- Trouble sleeping
- Back pain
You should let your doctor know if you experience any of the above side effects, including the most common ones.
The most crucial side effects impacting your health occur if you already have a severe medical condition.
Truvada Is Not for People with Hepatitis B (HBV)
One of the most startling effects of Truvada is on people who begin taking Truvada for PrEP who also have a hepatitis B (HBV) infection.
If you get Truvada from a medical provider, they will screen you for HBV before prescribing PrEP. This is also an excellent reason to avoid getting Truvada or another PrEP from a friend instead of from a health professional.
When you take Truvada with HBV, your HBV infection could grow dramatically and suddenly worse if you stop taking Truvada.
Why would a drug designed to prevent HIV create problems for people with HBV? After all, these are two different viruses.
The problem seems to be that Truvada suppresses the virus replication in chronic HBV cases – just like it suppresses the HIV virus. If you stop taking Truvada suddenly, it can cause hepatic flares.
While Truvada’s manufacturers warn patients with HBV of potential issues, it is unclear how severe the risk is. In another study presented in 2015, researchers found that patients with HBV who used Truvada and then stopped did not experience hepatic flares.
Either way, you need to know your HBV status both for your own health and before you start Truvada.
What Are the Serious But Rare Side Effects of Truvada?
There are other side effects that can appear in otherwise healthy people. The four documented side effects include:
- Kidney problems
- Liver problems
- Lactic acidosis
- Bone problems (including bone loss)
If you already have related diseases, you should tell your doctor about them before starting Truvada. You will also share all the medicines you take so your doctor can check for contraindications between the drugs.
Although these are incredibly rare, your doctor may monitor your kidneys and bones whilst on your treatment to help stem any issues that do develop.
If you develop any of these related problems, your doctor may tell you to stop taking the drug immediately.
You should tell your doctor right away if you experience:
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Changes in your urine (amount, color, or finding blood)
These are signs of potential kidney or liver problems, which could lead to failure if left untreated.
Some people who experience the worst side effects, including renal impairment and liver damage, choose to get a lawyer and make a personal injury claim against Gilead.
Many Truvada Side Effects Aren’t Exclusive to PrEP
All HIV medications, including PrEP and treatments, come with similar side effects. Liver, kidney, and bone density issues actually appear across the range of prescriptions as do diarrhea, headache, nausea, and fatigue.
Some people also have genetic make-ups that make them more susceptible to the adverse effects of the drugs. Your genetic makeup is more likely to impact your ability to take Abacavir or Atazanavir than Truvada and there are genetic tests available to help you determine whether you might struggle with those drugs.
Though, it’s important to remember that many people who take HIV medications experience nothing at all.
How to Deal with Truvada Side Effects
There are things everyone can do to deal with the potential side effects caused by Truvada.
First, a healthy diet, regular sleep schedule, and staying hydrated can help you beat fatigue and ward off headaches. If the headaches arrive anyway, use and over-the-counter drugs like aspirin, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen to relieve them. If you have severe headaches or migraines, they may not be the result of your HIV medication, and you should talk to your doctor.
If long-term loss of appetite and resulting weight loss hits you, you should consider adjusting your diet to encourage your body’s interest in food. Eat foods that sound good – whether or not you’re hungry. Rather than trying to eat three big meals, try five or six small meals or grazing. You should also try to avoid empty calories when you can.
To reduce the potential for liver side effects, you should consider cutting your alcohol intake or eliminating it completely. Your doctor can help you come up with a strategy to better protect your liver.
As always, talk to your doctor, nutritionist, or an HIV resource center about what you experience the best ways to cope.
Truvada Is Worth It – But It Comes with Side Effects
Like all prescription drugs, Truvada comes with side effects. Although many people take the drug and experience nothing, there’s no guarantee that you won’t experience the most common side effects of Truvada.
These issues aren’t unique to Truvada. They occur across all HIV medications and treatments.
Fortunately, you can manage these negative effects. Keep an open dialogue with your doctor and report your experiences. They can help you identify lifestyle changes or medical interventions that will help you feel better as you adjust to the drug.
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