Truvada (emtricitabine/tenofovir disoproxil fumarate) is a prescription brand-name medication. Truvada is approved for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in people who have an increased risk for HIV exposure. (HIV is a virus.)

With PrEP, a person uses HIV medication before they might come into contact with the virus. This helps prevent them from contracting HIV.

For this purpose, Truvada may be used in adults and in children weighing at least 35 kilograms (about 77 pounds). Immediately before starting Truvada for PrEP, a person must test negative for HIV.

Here are the basics on Truvada:

  • Active ingredients: emtricitabine and tenofovir disoproxil fumarate
  • Drug class: nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NRTI)
  • Drug form: tablet
  • Available as generic: yes

Read on for more information on Truvada and its use for PrEP. You can refer to this article for a comprehensive look at Truvada, which is also used to treat HIV.

A clinical study demonstrated Truvada’s effectiveness for PrEP.

Men who have sex with men,* as well as transgender women who have sex with men, participated in this study. Researchers randomly assigned people to take either Truvada or a placebo (treatment with no active drug). At the end of the study, researchers found people who took Truvada were less likely to have contracted HIV compared with people who took the placebo.

Guidelines by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend using a combination of emtricitabine and tenofovir disoproxil fumarate for HIV PrEP. These are the active medications in Truvada.

* Use of the term “men” within this article refers to a person’s sex assigned at birth.

How much Truvada costs is based on several factors. These can include your prescribed treatment regimen, the insurance plan you have, the pharmacy you use, and your location. For estimates of how much Truvada costs, see GoodRx.com.

Truvada is a brand-name medication that’s also available as a generic. Brand-name drugs usually cost more than generics. To learn about the generic form, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

Truvada is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in people who have an increased risk for HIV exposure.

Below are details on using Truvada for HIV PrEP in adults and in children who weigh at least 35 kilograms (about 77 pounds).

Dosage

For the use mentioned above, the recommended Truvada dosage is one pill, or tablet, taken once daily. Each tablet contains 200 milligrams (mg) of emtricitabine and 300 mg of tenofovir disoproxil fumarate.

Note: In addition to being used for PrEP, Truvada also treats HIV when used with other drugs. Keep in mind that the drug’s dosage may differ with these other uses. To learn more, talk with your doctor.

How to use

Truvada comes as tablets that you swallow. You may take Truvada tablets with or without food.

How often to use

Truvada tablets should be taken once daily.

The use of Truvada for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) may cause side effects that are mild or serious. The lists below include some of the main side effects that have been reported with Truvada use. For information on other potential side effects of the drug, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. You can also see our side effects article on Truvada or refer to the Truvada medication guide.

Mild side effects

Mild side effects from using Truvada for HIV PrEP can include:

These side effects of Truvada may be temporary, lasting a few days or weeks. But if they last longer, or if they bother you or become severe, it’s important to talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

Serious side effects

Serious side effects from Truvada for HIV PrEP aren’t common, but they can occur.

Serious side effects from Truvada can include:

Call your doctor right away if you develop serious side effects while using Truvada. If the side effects seem life threatening or if you think you’re having a medical emergency, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.

* Truvada has a boxed warning for this side effect. A boxed warning is the most serious warning from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). To learn more, see the “Before using Truvada” section below.

HIV is a virus transmitted through blood and other bodily fluids, such as vaginal fluids or semen. HIV attacks certain immune system cells once it’s inside your body. Your immune system acts as your body’s natural defense mechanism against infection.

HIV specifically targets immune system cells called CD4 cells (also called T cells). CD4 cells are a type of white blood cell. These cells help guide your immune system’s response to an infection. Without treatment, HIV will attack your CD4 cells. This causes your CD4 cell count to go down, hurting the ability of your immune system to fight infections.

Without treatment, HIV can cause your CD4 counts to drop to dangerously low levels. You may have an increased risk for what are called opportunistic infections. These are infections that usually don’t affect someone, unless they have a weakened immune system. In people with HIV, these opportunistic infections can, in some cases, be fatal.

The way Truvada works

Truvada contains two active drugs: emtricitabine and tenofovir disoproxil fumarate. These drugs prevent HIV from making more of the virus. They do this by blocking a special enzyme (protein) that HIV needs to “copy” itself.

When used for HIV PrEP, Truvada works by stopping the virus from starting an attack against your immune system. A virus that can’t replicate is unable to grow and spread.

Truvada and children

Truvada is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in children weighing at least 35 kilograms (about 77 pounds) who are at risk for HIV exposure.

Truvada is approved for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in adults and in children weighing at least 35 kilograms (about 77 pounds).

With PrEP, a person uses HIV medication before they might come into contact with the virus. This helps prevent them from contracting HIV.

PrEP may be prescribed for people who have an increased risk for contracting HIV. This includes people who:

  • don’t use barrier methods (such as condoms) when having sex with a partner with HIV or of unknown HIV status
  • are sexually active in a region where HIV is common and have other risk factors, such as alcohol or drug dependence, or sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

Before you use Truvada, there’s some important information to keep in mind. The drug may not be a safe option for you if you have certain medical conditions or other factors that affect your health. Some of these are mentioned below.

Boxed warnings

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

  • Worsening hepatitis B. If you have hepatitis B and stop taking Truvada, your condition may get worse. Your doctor will order blood tests from time to time to check your liver if you have hepatitis B and need to stop taking Truvada. If your hepatitis B gets worse after stopping Truvada use, you may require treatment for it.
  • Resistance to Truvada. For HIV PrEP, Truvada shouldn’t be used in people who already have HIV. If a person with HIV uses Truvada for HIV PrEP, it can lead to viral resistance to Truvada. “Viral resistance” means HIV may no longer be treatable with Truvada. Before taking Truvada for HIV PrEP, your doctor will order a blood test to check you for HIV. And you’ll have to have an HIV test at least every 3 months while using Truvada for HIV PrEP.

Other warnings

In addition to boxed warnings, Truvada has other warnings. If any of the following medical conditions or other health factors are relevant to you, talk with your doctor before using Truvada.

  • if you have kidney disease
  • if you have liver disease
  • if you have bone disease
  • if you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant
  • if you’re breastfeeding or planning to breastfeed
  • if you’ve had an allergic reaction to the drug or any of its ingredients

Now that you’ve learned about Truvada for PrEP, you may still have some questions. Talk with your doctor or pharmacist, who can advise you on whether Truvada might be right for you.

Here are some other helpful references:

  • Side effects. To learn more about side effects of Truvada, see this article. You can also look at the Truvada medication guide.
  • More details. For details about other aspects of Truvada, refer to this article.
  • Drug comparison. To find out how Truvada compares with Descovy, read this article.
  • Information on HIV. For more information on HIV, see our list of HIV articles.

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.