Descovy is a brand-name prescription drug. It's used for two purposes: to treat HIV and to lower the risk of contracting HIV.

  • Treating HIV. Descovy is FDA-approved along with other HIV medications to treat HIV in adults and in children who weigh at least 77 pounds (35 kilograms). Descovy may also be used in children weighing at least 55 lb (25 kg) and less than 77 lb (35 kg). In this second group of children, Descovy is used in combination with certain other HIV medications. (These other drugs cannot be protease inhibitors that require use with other drugs.)
  • Reducing the risk of HIV. Descovy is also used to reduce the risk of contracting HIV. This use is called pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). "Prophylaxis" means to prevent the spread of a condition. PrEP is for people who don't have HIV but are at risk for contracting the virus. It's used for this purpose in adults and adolescents who weigh at least 77 lb (35 kg). However, Descovy is not approved for PrEP in people who were born female (assigned female at birth) who are at risk for contracting HIV through vaginal intercourse.

Descovy contains two active drugs: emtricitabine and tenofovir alafenamide. Both drugs are antiretroviral medications. Antiretroviral therapy is used to treat or prevent HIV, which is considered a retrovirus.

Descovy comes as a tablet in one strength: 200 mg of emtricitabine/25 mg of tenofovir alafenamide. One tablet is taken daily for either HIV treatment or HIV PrEP.

Effectiveness

Clinical studies have been done to test Descovy's effectiveness for treating HIV and as HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).

Effectiveness for treating HIV

Several clinical studies have found Descovy to be effective at treating HIV. In these studies, researchers tested people's HIV viral load, which is how many copies of HIV there are in 1 milliliter (mL) of blood. A viral load of less than 200 copies/mL is considered viral suppression. In some people, the viral load can get so low that it's undetectable (meaning it can't be measured).

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people who can maintain undetectable viral load have effectively no risk of transmitting HIV to someone else through sex. They have a reduced risk of transmitting HIV through pregnancy, breastfeeding, and shared needles.

In clinical studies, adults who were new to HIV treatment took either Descovy or Truvada (a similar HIV medication). People in both groups also took other HIV medications. These were elvitegravir (Vitekta) and cobicistat (Tybost).

After 48 weeks of treatment, 92% of people taking Descovy had less than 50 copies/mL of HIV. In comparison, 90% of people taking Truvada had less than 50 copies/mL of HIV.

For more details about Descovy's effectiveness in treating HIV, see the "Descovy for HIV" section.

Effectiveness as PrEP

Descovy's effectiveness for HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) has also been shown. A clinical study included men who have sex with men, as well as transgender women who have sex with men. People took either Descovy or Truvada. After 48 to 96 weeks of PrEP, 99.7% of people taking Descovy remained HIV free. In comparison, 99.4% of people taking Truvada remained HIV free.

Descovy is available only as a brand-name medication. It's not currently available in generic form.

A generic drug is an exact copy of a brand-name medication. Generics tend to cost less than brand-name drugs.

Descovy contains two active drugs: emtricitabine and tenofovir alafenamide.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves prescription drugs such as Descovy to treat or prevent certain conditions.

Descovy is FDA-approved for use as HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). PrEP treatment is when a person uses HIV medication before they might come into contact with HIV. This helps prevent them from contracting HIV.

Descovy is approved as HIV PrEP for adults and adolescents who weigh at least 77 lb (35 kg). It's used for this purpose in people who are at risk for contracting HIV but who are not infected with the virus.

Before starting Descovy for PrEP, your doctor will test you for HIV. They must confirm that you're HIV-negative before starting Descovy for PrEP.

Descovy is not approved for use as HIV PrEP in people who were born female (assigned female at birth) who are at risk for contracting HIV through vaginal intercourse.

Note: See the "Descovy for HIV" section below to learn more about Descovy's other approved use.

Who's at risk for contracting HIV?

People at risk for contracting HIV include those who:

Effectiveness

A clinical study has shown the effectiveness of Descovy for HIV PrEP. The study included men who have sex with men, as well as transgender women who have sex with men. People took either Descovy or Truvada.

After 48 to 96 weeks of PrEP, there was no statistical difference found between Descovy and Truvada. (This means the difference was likely due to chance.) Of those taking Descovy, 99.7% of people remained HIV free. In comparison, 99.4% of people taking Truvada remained HIV free.

Information on other studies is available in the Descovy prescribing information.

Children and Descovy for PrEP

Descovy is FDA-approved for HIV PrEP in adolescents who weigh at least 77 lb (35 kg) and are at risk for contracting HIV.

Clinical studies of Descovy used for HIV PrEP in adults were used for FDA approval of adolescent use.

In addition to its use for PrEP, Descovy is also approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat HIV in adults and in children who weigh at least 77 lb (35 kg). Descovy may also be used in children weighing at least 55 lb (25 kg) and less than 77 lb (35 kg). It's used for these children in combination with certain other HIV medications, excluding protease inhibitors that require use with other drugs.

Descovy is used along with other HIV medications to treat HIV.

HIV is a virus that's transmitted through blood and other bodily fluids. Once a person has contracted HIV, the virus will attack certain cells in their immune system (which helps the body fight infection and disease).

If HIV is not treated, it reduces the immune system's ability to fight infection. Eventually, untreated HIV puts the person who has it at risk for potentially fatal diseases. This is typically when a person is diagnosed with AIDS (the most severe stage of HIV).

Note: See the "Descovy for PrEP" section above to learn about Descovy's use as pre-exposure prophylaxis.

Effectiveness

The effectiveness of Descovy in treating HIV has been shown in studies that tested people's viral load. This is how many copies of HIV there are in 1 milliliter (mL) of blood. A viral load of less than 200 copies/mL is considered viral suppression. In some people, the viral load can get so low that it's undetectable (meaning it can't be measured).

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people who can maintain an undetectable viral load have effectively no risk of transmitting HIV to someone else through sex. They have a reduced risk of transmitting HIV through pregnancy, breastfeeding, and shared needles.

In clinical studies, adults who were new to HIV treatment took either Descovy or Truvada (a similar HIV medication). People in both groups also took other HIV medications, elvitegravir (Vitekta) and cobicistat (Tybost).

After 48 weeks of treatment, 92% of people taking Descovy had less than 50 copies/mL of HIV. In comparison, 90% of people taking Truvada had less than 50 copies/mL of HIV.

In another clinical study, some adults who already had viral suppression with Truvada switched to Descovy, while others kept taking Truvada. Both groups continued to take elvitegravir and cobicistat. After 48 weeks of treatment, 97% of people taking Descovy had less than 50 copies/mL of HIV. Of those who continued taking Truvada, 93% had less than 50 copies/mL.

Information on other studies is available in the Descovy prescribing information.

Children and Descovy for HIV

Descovy is used to treat HIV in children weighing 77 lb (35 kg) or more. It's used along with other HIV drugs for this purpose.

Descovy is also used to treat HIV in children who weigh at least 55 lb (25 kg) and less than 77 lb (35 kg). However, it's only used for this weight range when taken with certain other HIV medications. These include medications other than protease inhibitors (a type of HIV medication) that require use with certain other drugs.

Examples of such drugs that shouldn't be used for this age range (in combination with Descovy) include atazanavir/cobicistat (Evotaz) and darunavir/cobicistat (Prezcobix).

In a clinical study, children ages 12 to 18 years old with HIV took Descovy with other HIV medications (elvitegravir and cobicistat). After 48 weeks of treatment, 92% of the children had HIV levels of less than 50 copies/mL.

When Descovy is used to treat HIV, it's used along with other drugs. It's never used on its own for this purpose.

Examples of other drugs that Descovy is used with include:

  • dolutegravir (Tivicay)
  • raltegravir (Isentress)
  • darunavir/cobicistat (Prezcobix)
  • darunavir (Prezista)
  • atazanavir (Reyataz)
  • atazanavir/cobicistat (Evotaz)
  • doravirine (Pifeltro)
  • efavirenz (Sustiva)
  • rilpivirine (Edurant)

Descovy is taken on its own when used as HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).

Descovy can cause mild or serious side effects. The following lists contain some of the key side effects that may occur while taking Descovy. These lists do not include all possible side effects.

For more information on the possible side effects of Descovy, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. They can give you tips on how to deal with any side effects that may be bothersome.

Note: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tracks side effects of drugs they have approved. If you would like to report to the FDA a side effect you've had with Descovy, you can do so through MedWatch.

More common side effects

The more common side effects of Descovy can include:

  • headache
  • fatigue (lack of energy)
  • belly pain
  • nausea (see "Side effect details" below)
  • diarrhea (see "Side effect details" below)

Most of these side effects may go away within a few days or a couple of weeks. If they're more severe or don't go away, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

Serious side effects

Serious side effects from Descovy aren't common, but they can occur. Call your doctor right away if you have serious side effects. Call 911 if your symptoms feel life threatening or if you think you're having a medical emergency.

Serious side effects and their symptoms can include:

  • Immune reconstitution syndrome (when your immune system strengthens and reduces HIV infection symptoms, but then responds to other infections you may have had and causes unexpected infection symptoms). These symptoms can include:
    • fever
    • fatigue (lack of energy)
    • weakness
  • New or worsening kidney damage. Symptoms can include:
    • urinating less often than usual
    • fatigue
    • weakness
    • nausea
    • vomiting
  • Liver damage. Symptoms can include:
    • nausea
    • loss of appetite
    • vomiting
    • jaundice (yellowing of your skin or whites of your eyes)
    • abdominal (belly) pain
    • dark-colored urine
  • Lactic acidosis (buildup of lactic acid in your body). Symptoms can include:
    • fruity-smelling breath
    • muscle pain
    • nausea
    • vomiting
    • hands or feet that feel cold and look blue
    • dizziness
    • trouble breathing
    • fatigue
    • rapid or abnormal heart beat
  • Loss of bone density (which can lead to osteoporosis). Symptoms can include bone fractures or breaks that happen more easily than usual.
  • Allergic reactions. See "Side effect details" below.

Side effects in children

In clinical studies of Descovy in children, the side effects were similar to those seen in adults.

However, in one group of children ages 6 to 12 years old, there was a decrease in CD4 cell counts. CD4 cells are immune system cells that HIV attacks. As HIV makes more copies of itself in your body, the number of healthy CD4 cells goes down. The CD4 cell count is one way that doctors monitor your body's response to medication. Higher CD4 counts indicate better immune system health and greater ability to fight infection.

In one study, the children received Descovy after HIV had already been suppressed in their bodies. (Suppression means the virus was at very low or undetectable levels.) After 24 weeks of Descovy treatment, the children's CD4 cell counts were decreased by 1.5%. This decrease in CD4 cell counts wasn't seen in children ages 12 to 18 years old who were new to HIV treatment.

Your child's doctor will monitor their CD4 cell counts before and during treatment with Descovy. They will recommend the best treatment option to keep your child's immune system healthy.

Side effect details

You may wonder how often certain side effects occur with this drug, or whether certain side effects pertain to it. Here's some detail on some of the side effects this drug may or may not cause.

Allergic reaction

As with most drugs, some people can have an allergic reaction after taking Descovy. Symptoms of a mild allergic reaction can include:

  • skin rash
  • itchiness
  • flushing (warmth and redness in your skin)

A more severe allergic reaction is rare but possible. Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction can include:

  • swelling under your skin, typically in your eyelids, lips, hands, or feet
  • swelling of your tongue, mouth, or throat
  • trouble breathing

It's not known how many people have had an allergic reaction to Descovy.

Call your doctor right away if you have a severe allergic reaction to Descovy. Call 911 if your symptoms feel life threatening or if you think you're having a medical emergency.

Diarrhea

Diarrhea may happen while you're taking Descovy.

Diarrhea is the most common side effect of Descovy when it's used for HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). In a clinical study, 5% of people who took Descovy had diarrhea. In comparison, 6% of people who took a similar drug, Truvada, had diarrhea.

Diarrhea wasn't reported as a side effect of Descovy for people taking the drug to treat HIV. However, diarrhea may be an early symptom of a new case of HIV. Other symptoms of a new HIV case may also include fever, headache, and muscle pain.

If you have diarrhea while taking Descovy, talk with your doctor about ways to manage this side effect. They can also determine if the diarrhea may be a symptom of HIV.

Nausea

Descovy may cause nausea in some people. In fact, nausea is the most common side effect of Descovy when it's used to treat HIV. In clinical studies, 10% of people who took Descovy (with other HIV drugs) had nausea. In these studies, Descovy wasn't compared with a different drug or a placebo (a treatment with no active drug).

In a clinical study of people taking Descovy for HIV PrEP, 4% of people who took Descovy had nausea. In comparison, 5% of people who took Truvada, a similar HIV drug, had nausea.

Nausea may also be a symptom of more serious side effects, including lactic acidosis and liver damage. See the "Serious side effects" section for more details on these side effects.

If you have nausea while taking Descovy, talk with your doctor. They can determine the cause of the nausea and recommend ways to manage it.

Weight gain (not a side effect)

The manufacturer of Descovy has not reported weight gain as a side effect of the drug. It's not clear if Descovy is associated with weight gain or not.

In a clinical study, weight gain has been seen when tenofovir alafenamide (one of the active ingredients in Descovy) was used with other HIV drugs. However, it's not clear if the weight gain was caused by tenofovir alafenamide or the other drugs it was taken with.

Talk with your doctor if you're concerned about weight gain during your HIV treatment.

The following information describes dosages that are commonly used or recommended. However, be sure to take the dosage your doctor prescribes for you. Your doctor will determine the best dosage to fit your needs.

Drug forms and strengths

Descovy comes as tablet that's taken by mouth. Each tablet contains 200 mg of emtricitabine and 25 mg of tenofovir alafenamide.

Dosage for HIV

The usual recommended dosage for HIV treatment is one tablet taken once a day. Descovy must be used along with other HIV medications for this purpose.

Dosage for PrEP

The usual recommended dosage for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is one tablet taken once a day. Descovy is used on its own for this purpose.

Pediatric dosage

The usual recommended dosage for either HIV treatment or HIV PrEP for children is the same as it is for adults: one tablet taken once a day.

What if I miss a dose?

If you miss a dose of Descovy, take it as soon as you remember. However, it's important that you don't miss doses of Descovy.

Descovy's effectiveness to treat or prevent HIV depends on taking the drug regularly and not missing any doses.

If you're taking Descovy to treat HIV, missing doses can cause the virus to become resistant to the drug. Resistance means the virus is less sensitive or doesn't respond to the drug. This can lead to the drug becoming less effective or not effective for you.

If you're taking Descovy to prevent HIV (as PrEP), missing doses raises your risk for contracting HIV.

To help make sure you don't miss a dose, try setting a reminder on your phone. A medication timer may be useful, too.

Will I need to use this drug long term?

Descovy is meant to be used as a long-term treatment. If you and your doctor determine that Descovy is safe and effective for you, you'll likely take it long term.

Other drugs are available that can treat or prevent HIV. Some may be a better fit for you than others. If you're interested in finding an alternative to Descovy, talk with your doctor. They can tell you about other medications that may work well for you.

Alternatives to treat HIV

Other medications that can be used to treat HIV include:

  • bictegravir/tenofovir alafenamide/emtricitabine (Biktarvy)
  • dolutegravir/abacavir/lamivudine (Triumeq)
  • dolutegravir/rilpivirine (Juluca)
  • dolutegravir (Tivicay)
  • tenofovir disoproxil fumarate/emtricitabine (Truvada)
  • raltegravir (Isentress)
  • elvitegravir/tenofovir alafenamide/emtricitabine/cobicistat (Genvoya)
  • elvitegravir/tenofovir disoproxil fumarate/emtricitabine/cobicistat (Stribild)
  • darunavir/tenofovir alafenamide/emtricitabine/cobicistat (Symtuza)
  • atazanavir/cobicistat (Evotaz)
  • abacavir/lamivudine (Epzicom)
  • efavirenz/lamivudine/tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (Symfi)

There are many other combinations of drugs available that can be used to treat HIV. You can find a list of all available HIV medications at the Department of Health and Human Services' website.

Alternative for HIV PrEP

The only other medication that's approved by the Food and Drug Administration to be used as HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is tenofovir disoproxil fumarate/emtricitabine (Truvada).

You may wonder how Descovy compares to other medications that are prescribed for similar uses. Here we look at how Descovy and Truvada are alike and different.

Ingredients

Descovy contains the active drugs emtricitabine and tenofovir alafenamide. Truvada contains emtricitabine and tenofovir disoproxil fumarate.

Although both drugs contain emtricitabine, they contain different forms of tenofovir.

Uses

Descovy and Truvada are both used to treat HIV. Descovy is used for this purpose in adults and in children who weigh at least 55 lb (25 kg). Truvada is used for this purpose in adults and in children who weigh at least about 37 lb (17 kg).

Descovy and Truvada are both used along with other HIV medications when used to treat HIV.

Descovy and Truvada are also both used to reduce the risk of contracting HIV. This use is called pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). Descovy and Truvada are used as HIV PrEP in people who are at risk for contracting HIV. Both drugs can be used in adults and adolescents who weigh at least 77 lb (35 kg).

Descovy is not meant to be used for HIV PrEP in people who were born female (assigned female at birth) who are at risk for contracting HIV through vaginal intercourse. Truvada can be used for HIV PrEP in people at risk of contracting HIV this way, however.

Drug forms and administration

Descovy comes as a tablet that you take by mouth once per day. It can be taken with or without food.

Truvada also comes as a tablet that you take by mouth. It's typically taken once per day, with or without food.

Side effects and risks

Descovy and Truvada have some similar side effects and others that differ. Below are examples of these side effects.

More common side effects

These lists contain examples of more common side effects that can occur with Truvada or with both drugs (when taken individually). Side effects may differ based on whether you're using the drugs to treat or prevent HIV.

Serious side effects

This list contains examples of serious side effects that can occur with both Descovy and Truvada (when taken individually).

  • severe allergic reactions
  • immune reconstitution syndrome (when your immune system strengthens and reduces HIV infection symptoms, but then responds to other infections you may have had and causes unexpected infection symptoms)
  • new or worsening kidney damage
  • liver damage
  • lactic acidosis (buildup of lactic acid in your body)
  • loss of bone density (which can lead to osteoporosis)

Effectiveness

Descovy and Truvada have been directly compared in clinical studies for both of their approved uses.

Effectiveness for treating HIV

Clinical studies have compared Descovy and Truvada in treating HIV. These studies tested a person's viral load, which is how many copies of HIV there are in 1 milliliter (mL) of blood. A viral load of less than 200 copies/mL is considered viral suppression. In some people, the viral load can get so low that it's undetectable (meaning it can't be measured).

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people who can maintain an undetectable viral load have effectively no risk of transmitting HIV to someone else through sex. They have a reduced risk of transmitting HIV through pregnancy, breastfeeding, and shared needles.

In clinical studies, adults who were new to HIV treatment took either Descovy or Truvada. People in both groups also took other HIV medications. These were elvitegravir (Vitekta) and cobicistat (Tybost).

After 48 weeks of treatment, 92% of people taking Descovy had less than 50 copies/mL of HIV. In comparison, 90% of people taking Truvada had less than 50 copies/mL of HIV.

In another clinical study, some adults who already had viral suppression with Truvada switched to Descovy, while others kept taking Truvada. Both groups continued to take elvitegravir and cobicistat. After 48 weeks of treatment, 97% of people taking Descovy had less than 50 copies/mL of HIV. Of those who continued taking Truvada, 93% had less than 50 copies/mL of HIV.

Effectiveness as PrEP

Descovy and Truvada have also been directly compared for the purpose of HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). A clinical study included men who have sex with men, as well as transgender women who have sex with men. People took either Descovy or Truvada.

After 48 to 96 weeks of PrEP, there was no statistical difference found between Descovy and Truvada. (This means the difference was likely due to chance.) Of those taking Descovy, 99.7% of people remained HIV free. In comparison, 99.4% of people taking Truvada remained HIV free.

Costs

Descovy and Truvada are both brand-name drugs. There are currently no generic forms of either drug. Brand-name medications usually cost more than generics.

According to estimates on GoodRx.com, Descovy and Truvada generally cost about the same. The actual price you'll pay for either drug depends on your insurance plan, your location, and the pharmacy you use.

Descovy and Biktarvy are prescribed for similar uses. Below are details of how these medications are alike and different.

Ingredients

Descovy contains two active drugs: emtricitabine and tenofovir alafenamide.

Biktarvy contains three active drugs: emtricitabine, tenofovir alafenamide, and bictegravir.

Uses

Descovy is used to treat HIV in adults and in children who weigh at least at least 77 lb (35 kg). Descovy may also be used in children weighing at least 55 lb (25 kg) and less than 77 lb (35 kg). It's used for these children in combination with certain other HIV medications, excluding protease inhibitors that require use with other drugs.

Descovy is used along with other HIV medications to treat HIV.

Descovy is also used on its own as HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in adults and adolescents who are at risk for contracting HIV. It's used for this purpose in people weighing 77 lb (35 kg) or more.

Descovy is not used as HIV PrEP in people who were born female (assigned female at birth) who are at risk for contracting HIV through vaginal intercourse.

Biktarvy is used to treat HIV in adults and in children weighing at least 55 lb (25 kg). It's used for this purpose in people who are new to HIV treatment.

Biktarvy is also used to treat HIV in people who have each of the following:

  • HIV levels of less than 50 copies/mL
  • stable history of treatment
  • no treatment failures (where the drug did not work for them)
  • no genetic changes that cause their HIV to be resistant (insensitive) to the active drugs in Biktarvy

Biktarvy is considered a complete treatment regimen. It doesn't need to be taken with other HIV medications.

Drug forms and administration

Descovy and Biktarvy both come as tablets that you take by mouth once a day. They can both be taken with or without food.

Side effects and risks

Descovy and Biktarvy both contain emtricitabine and tenofovir alafenamide. Therefore, these medications can cause similar side effects. Below are examples of these side effects.

More common side effects

These lists contain examples of more common side effects that can occur with Biktarvy or with both drugs (when taken individually).

  • Can occur with Biktarvy:
    • dizziness
    • insomnia (trouble sleeping)
    • abnormal dreams
  • Can occur with both Descovy and Biktarvy:
    • nausea
    • diarrhea
    • headache
    • fatigue (lack of energy)

Serious side effects

These lists contain examples of serious side effects that can occur with Descovy or with both drugs (when taken individually).

  • Can occur with Descovy:
  • Can occur with both Descovy and Biktarvy:
    • immune reconstitution syndrome (when your immune system strengthens and reduces HIV infection symptoms, but then responds to other infections you may have had and causes unexpected infection symptoms)
    • new or worsening kidney damage
    • liver damage
    • lactic acidosis (buildup of lactic acid in your body)
    • severe allergic reactions

Effectiveness

Descovy and Biktarvy haven't been directly compared in clinical studies. However, studies have found both Descovy and Biktarvy to be effective for treating HIV.

Treatment guidelines recommend Biktarvy as a first-choice complete regimen for treating HIV. Descovy is also a first-choice option, but it needs to be used along with other HIV medications.

Costs

Descovy and Biktarvy are both brand-name drugs. There are currently no generic forms of either drug. Brand-name medications usually cost more than generics.

According to estimates on GoodRx.com, Descovy generally costs less than Biktarvy. The actual price you'll pay for either drug depends on your insurance plan, your location, and the pharmacy you use.

There's no known interaction between Descovy and alcohol.

Treatment guidelines from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommend that people with HIV and people at risk of contracting HIV limit their alcohol intake to moderate amounts. (This is considered one drink per day for women or two drinks per day for men.)

The guidelines state that drinking in moderation is thought to decrease your chances of engaging in risky behavior, such as having sex without using a condom or other barrier method. Always using a barrier method can lower your risk of transmitting HIV to someone else or contracting HIV yourself if you don't have it.

Moderate drinking can also help your immune system continue to keep HIV at low levels in your blood.

If you drink alcohol, talk with your doctor about how much alcohol is safe for you while taking Descovy.

Descovy can interact with several other medications. It can also interact with certain supplements.

Different interactions can cause different effects. For instance, some interactions can interfere with how well a drug works. Other interactions can increase side effects or make them more severe.

Descovy and other medications

Below is a list of medications that can interact with Descovy. This list does not contain all drugs that may interact with Descovy.

Before taking Descovy, talk with your doctor and pharmacist. Tell them about all prescription, over-the-counter, and other drugs you take. Also tell them about any vitamins, herbs, and supplements you use. Sharing this information can help you avoid potential interactions.

If you have questions about drug interactions that may affect you, ask your doctor or pharmacist.

Descovy and certain seizure drugs

Taking Descovy with certain seizure drugs can lower the level of tenofovir alafenamide in your body. (Tenofovir alafenamide is one of the active drugs in Descovy.) Reduced levels of this drug can make Descovy less effective for you.

Examples of seizure drugs that can cause this interaction include:

  • carbamazepine (Carbatrol, Epitol, Tegretol)
  • oxcarbazepine (Trileptal)
  • phenobarbital
  • phenytoin (Dilantin, Phenytek)

If you need to take a seizure medication with Descovy, your doctor may prescribe a seizure drug other than the ones listed above.

Descovy and certain antibiotics or antivirals

Taking Descovy with certain antibiotics is not recommended. This is because these antibiotics can decrease the level of tenofovir alafenamide (one of the active drugs in Descovy) in your body.

Antibiotics that are not recommended to be taken with Descovy include:

  • rifabutin (Mycobutin)
  • rifampin (Rimactane)
  • rifapentine (Priftin)

If you need to take one of these antibiotics with Descovy, your doctor may recommend either a different antibiotic or a different HIV drug.

Other antibiotics or antivirals may cause Descovy levels to increase to unsafe amounts and may cause kidney damage. This is because certain antibiotics and antivirals prevent your kidneys from passing Descovy in your urine. Examples of these drugs include:

  • gentamicin (Gentak)
  • valacyclovir (Valtrex)
  • valganciclovir (Valcyte)
  • acyclovir (Zovirax)
  • ganciclovir (Cytovene, Zirgan)

If you need to take one of these antibiotics or antivirals while taking Descovy, your doctor may monitor your kidney function more closely than usual. They may also recommend a different treatment option for one of your conditions.

Descovy and tipranavir and ritonavir

Taking Descovy with tipranavir (Aptivus) and ritonavir (Norvir), another combination of HIV drugs, can decrease levels of tenofovir alafenamide in your body. (Tenofovir alafenamide is one of the active drugs in Descovy.) This can make Descovy less effective for you. Taking Descovy with these drugs is not recommended.

Descovy and herbs and supplements

Taking Descovy with the herbal supplement St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum) is not recommended. St. John's wort can decrease levels of tenofovir alafenamide (one of the active drugs in Descovy) in your body. This can make Descovy less effective for you.

Check with your doctor or pharmacist before using any herbs or supplements while taking Descovy.

It's not known if Descovy is safe to take during pregnancy. In animal studies, there were no harmful effects to the developing fetus seen when the pregnant female received either of the active drugs in Descovy. However, animal studies don't always predict what will happen in humans.

There is pregnancy registry called the Antiretroviral Pregnancy Registry that collects information about Descovy use during pregnancy. (All drugs used to prevent or treat HIV are called antiretrovirals.)

This pregnancy registry was created to help healthcare professionals determine how safe antiretroviral drugs are for use during pregnancy.

If you've taken Descovy during pregnancy, you're encouraged to enroll in the registry online or by calling 800-258-4263. You can also talk with your doctor about enrolling.

Guidelines for pregnancy and HIV

Treatment guidelines recommend that all pregnant women with HIV in the United States receive treatment for the virus. This recommendation is made to protect the health of both the woman and her fetus.

If you're pregnant and have HIV, talk with your doctor about your treatment options.

It's not known if Descovy is safe to take during pregnancy. If you're sexually active and you or your partner can become pregnant, talk with your doctor about your birth control needs while you're using Descovy.

You shouldn't breastfeed while taking Descovy.

Emtricitabine, one of the active drugs in Descovy, passes into human breast milk. It's not known if tenofovir alafenamide, the other active drug in Descovy, also does. You shouldn't breastfeed while taking Descovy because of the risk of side effects and possible development of HIV resistance (the virus is no longer sensitive to the drug) in a breastfed child.

This recommendation applies to people taking Descovy for either HIV treatment or pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).

Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that U.S. women with HIV not breastfeed their children. The CDC makes this recommendation to prevent the transmission of HIV from the mother to the breastfed child.

As with all medications, the cost of Descovy can vary. To find current prices for Descovy in your area, check out GoodRx.com.

The cost you find on GoodRx.com is what you may pay without insurance. The actual price you'll pay depends on your insurance plan, your location, and the pharmacy you use.

Your insurance plan may require you to get prior authorization before approving coverage for Descovy. This means that your doctor and insurance company will need to communicate about your prescription before the insurance company will cover the drug. The insurance company will review the request and let you and your doctor know if your plan will cover Descovy.

If you're not sure if you'll need to get prior authorization for Descovy, contact your insurance company.

Financial and insurance assistance

If you need financial support to pay for Descovy, or if you need help understanding your insurance coverage, help is available.

Gilead Sciences Inc., the manufacturer of Descovy, offers a program called Gilead Advancing Access. For more information and to find out if you're eligible for support, call 800-226-2056 or visit the program website.

You should take Descovy according to your doctor's or healthcare provider's instructions.

When to take

Descovy should be taken once a day, at roughly the same time each day.

If you're taking Descovy for HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), you should take it every day, not just when you think you may be exposed to HIV.

To help make sure you don't miss a dose, try setting a reminder on your phone. A medication timer may be useful, too.

Taking Descovy with food

Descovy can be taken with or without food.

Can Descovy be crushed, split, or chewed?

The manufacturer of Descovy hasn't provided information about whether it's safe to crush, split, or chew Descovy tablets. If you have trouble swallowing Descovy tablets, talk with your pharmacist or doctor. They can recommend ways to help you take your medication.

Descovy is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat HIV in adults and children. It's also approved for use as HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). HIV PrEP is used to prevent someone from contracting HIV from an HIV-positive person.

What HIV does in your body

HIV is a virus that's transmitted through blood and other bodily fluids. Once a person contracts HIV, the virus will attack certain cells in their immune system. Your immune system is your body's natural defense against infection and disease.

HIV targets immune system cells called CD4 cells (also called T cells). CD4 cells are white blood cells that help coordinate your immune system's response to infection. If HIV is not treated, your CD4 cell count will decrease. This reduces your immune system's ability to fight infection.

Eventually, your CD4 cell count can decrease to dangerously low levels, putting you at risk for potentially fatal diseases (called opportunistic infections). This is typically when a person is diagnosed with AIDS, the most severe stage of HIV.

However, with treatment, the amount of HIV in your blood can be reduced to very low or undetectable levels. If your HIV levels remain low enough, you can live a long, healthy life, with little to no risk of transmitting HIV to someone else.

How Descovy fights HIV

Descovy contains two drugs that are each nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs). These drugs prevent HIV from multiplying (making more virus). They do this by blocking an enzyme (special protein) that the virus needs in order to copy its genetic material.

Because the virus can't multiply, it can't grow and spread. As a result, your HIV levels will decrease, and your CD4 cell counts will increase. This allows your immune system to more effectively fight off infection.

If you're taking Descovy to prevent contracting HIV, the drug works by stopping the virus from even starting to attack your immune system.

How long does it take to work?

Descovy begins working in your body within hours after you take a dose. If you're taking Descovy for HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), this helps prevent HIV very soon after you start taking it.

If you're taking Descovy to treat HIV, it may take several weeks or months before your HIV levels decrease and your CD4 cell counts return to your usual levels.

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about Descovy.

If I have kidney problems, can I take Descovy?

Possibly. If you have mild or moderate kidney problems, you can take Descovy, but your doctor will likely monitor your kidney function more closely than usual. If you have severe kidney problems, you may not be able to take Descovy. Talk with your doctor about your kidney health to find out if Descovy is safe for you.

Does Descovy cure HIV?

No, there is currently no true cure for HIV. Certain medications can suppress (lower) your HIV blood levels to undetectable amounts, but it's still not known if this means the virus has been completely eliminated.

Keep taking Descovy for as long as your doctor prescribes it, even if your HIV levels are suppressed.

If I'm using Descovy for PrEP, what else can I do to help protect myself from contracting HIV?

Most importantly, you should remember to take Descovy every single day. Missing doses raises your risk for contracting HIV.

You can also help protect yourself by using barrier methods (such as condoms) every time you engage in sexual activity. Use water-based or silicone-based lubricants with condoms to help prevent them from slipping or breaking.

Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Let's Stop HIV Together website to learn about how you can get tested for HIV, prevent HIV, and treat HIV.

Can Descovy be used for PrEP by cisgender women?

No, Descovy is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use as HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) by cisgender women. (Cisgender women are those who identify with the gender identity they were assigned at birth. In other words, cisgender women are women who were identified by healthcare professionals as being female at birth.)

This lack of approval is because Descovy hasn't been tested for PrEP effectiveness in people who were born female (assigned female at birth) who are at risk for contracting HIV through vaginal intercourse.

If you're a person who can contract HIV through vaginal sex, it's not known if Descovy will protect you from HIV. Talk with your doctor about your HIV risk. They can recommend the most effective prevention options for you.

This drug comes with several precautions.

FDA warning

This drug has boxed warnings. A boxed warning is the most serious warning from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It alerts doctors and patients about drug effects that may be dangerous.

  • Worsening of hepatitis B. There have been reports of severe worsening of hepatitis B in people who are infected with the hepatitis B virus. This has happened after stopping treatment with emtricitabine, tenofovir disoproxil fumarate, or both. It may also occur with Descovy. If you have hepatitis B, your doctor will monitor your liver function for at least several months after you stop taking Descovy or other medications containing emtricitabine, tenofovir disoproxil fumarate, or both. They will recommend treatment for hepatitis B if needed.
  • Resistance to Descovy treatment. Descovy should only be taken for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in people who are confirmed to be HIV-negative. If you take Descovy for PrEP and you have HIV, you can develop resistance to the drug. Resistance to Descovy is when HIV is no longer sensitive to the drug. This makes Descovy less effective or no longer effective for you. Your doctor will test you for HIV before you start Descovy and every 3 months while you take Descovy. If you have HIV, they will recommend a different treatment for you.

Other precautions

Before taking Descovy, talk with your doctor about your health history. Descovy may not be right for you if you have certain medical conditions or other factors affecting your health. These include:

  • Kidney problems. Descovy has caused new or worsening kidney problems in some people. Talk with your doctor about any kidney problems you may have. They will determine whether Descovy is safe for you.
  • Liver problems. The active drugs in Descovy have caused severe liver problems in some people. Some of these cases have been fatal. Talk with your doctor about any liver problems you have. (This includes hepatitis B; see the FDA warning above.) They will determine whether Descovy is safe for you.
  • Pregnancy. It's not known if Descovy is safe to take during pregnancy. For more information, see the "Descovy and pregnancy" section above.
  • Breastfeeding. You shouldn't breastfeed while taking Descovy. For more information, see the "Descovy and breastfeeding" section above.

Note: For more information about the potential negative effects of Descovy, see the "Descovy side effects" section above.

Do not use more Descovy than your doctor recommends.

If you think you've taken too much of this drug, call your doctor. You can also call the American Association of Poison Control Centers at 800-222-1222 or use their online tool. But if your symptoms are severe, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room right away.

When you get Descovy from the pharmacy, the pharmacist will add an expiration date to the label on the bottle. This date is typically 1 year from the date they dispensed the medication.

The expiration date helps guarantee that the medication is effective during this time. The current stance of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is to avoid using expired medications. If you have unused medication that has gone past the expiration date, talk to your pharmacist about whether you might still be able to use it.

Storage

How long a medication remains good can depend on many factors, including how and where you store the medication.

Descovy tablets should be stored at room temperature (68°F to 77°F/20°C to 25°C) in a tightly sealed container. Avoid storing this medication in areas where it could get damp or wet, such as bathrooms.

Disposal

If you no longer need to take Descovy and have leftover medication, it's important to dispose of it safely. This helps prevent others, including children and pets, from taking the drug by accident. It also helps keep the drug from harming the environment.

The FDA website provides several useful tips on medication disposal. You can also ask your pharmacist for information on how to dispose of your medication.

The following information is provided for clinicians and other healthcare professionals.

Indications

Descovy (emtricitabine/tenofovir alafenamide) is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for:

  • treatment of HIV-1 in adults and children weighing at least 77 lb (35 kg), in combination with other antiretroviral agents
  • treatment of HIV-1 in children weighing at least 55 lb (25 kg) and less than 77 lb (35 kg) in combination with other antiretroviral agents, excluding protease inhibitors that require coadministration with a CYP3A4 inhibitor
  • HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in adults and children who weigh at least 77 lb (35 kg) and are at risk of contracting HIV*

* Descovy is not FDA-approved for use as HIV PrEP in people who can contract HIV through receptive vaginal intercourse.

Mechanism of action

Descovy contains two active drugs: emtricitabine and tenofovir alafenamide. Each drug belongs to the nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NRTI) drug class.

Drugs in the NRTI class inhibit the reverse transcriptase enzyme, which is required to convert HIV RNA to DNA. By blocking this enzyme, emtricitabine and tenofovir alafenamide prevent HIV from replicating.

Pharmacokinetics and metabolism

Emtricitabine reaches maximum concentrations in 3 hours and is less than 4% bound to human plasma proteins. There is no significant metabolism of emtricitabine. Elimination occurs primarily via renal mechanisms, with 70% excreted in urine and 13.7% excreted in feces. The half-life of emtricitabine is 10 hours.

Tenofovir alafenamide reaches maximum concentrations in 1 hour and is approximately 80% bound to human plasma proteins. Tenofovir alafenamide is metabolized by cathepsin in peripheral blood mononuclear cells, by carboxylesterase cells in hepatocytes, and minimally by CYP3A4. Eliminations occurs primarily by metabolic mechanisms, with less than 1% excreted in urine and 31.7% excreted in feces. Half-life is approximately 0.5 hours.

Contraindications

Descovy should not be used for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in patients with unknown or positive HIV-1 status. See "FDA warning" at the beginning of this article.

Storage

Descovy should be stored at room temperature (68°F to 77°F/20°C to 25°C) in its original container.

Disclaimer: Medical News Today has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up-to-date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or other healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.