New medicines that hit the market in the 1990s and 2000s have made the difference between life and death for many people affected by HIV and AIDS. HIV medicines like nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors, or NRTIs, have turned a virus whose diagnosis once meant certain death into a manageable chronic condition.
In 2004, a new drug came to market that could help treat HIV-positive adults in combination with other HIV medications, like NRTIs. The drug, called Truvada, is now approved to protect HIV-negative individuals from ever contracting the virus and was recently approved to protect teens who test negative for HIV. This second use of Truvada is called Truvada for pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP.
Though the drug has helped treat and protected some people from HIV infection, it has been potentially harmful to others. Truvada, like other HIV medicines, can put some people at an increased risk for dangerous side effects, including lactic acidosis, which can be deadly. It’s essential for people looking to take Truvada, or other similar medications, for HIV prevention to understand all of the risks associated with the drugs so they can make informed decisions when talking with their healthcare provider.
People who began treatment with Truvada and developed severe conditions like lactic acidosis are now filing lawsuits against the drug’s manufacturer, Gilead Sciences Inc. The lawsuits accuse Gilead of manufacturing a defective product and not informing the public of all the potential risks associated with their prescription. If you took Truvada and developed lactic acidosis or severe kidney or liver problems, you may qualify for a Truvada lawsuit.
What is Truvada?
Truvada is a combination drug made up of emtricitabine and tenofovir disoproxil fumarate. It is used in combination with other medicines to treat people who have become infected with HIV or alone to protect those who are at high risk for the virus but have yet to be infected.
HIV, short for human immunodeficiency virus, is a potentially deadly virus that attacks the immune system. The virus destroys a type of white blood cell called T-helper cells, making copies of itself inside those cells, then gradually takes over the immune system. If left untreated, the virus will eventually destroy a person’s immune system. A healthy immune system is the body’s only natural defense against infections and diseases.
Without treatment, HIV can lead to AIDS, or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, which refers to a set of symptoms caused by HIV. According to Avert, an organization that provides global information and education on HIV and AIDS, “A person is said to have AIDS when their immune system is too weak to fight off infection, and they develop certain defining symptoms and illnesses. This is the last stage of HIV, when the infection is very advanced, and if left untreated will lead to death.”
Truvada must be taken with other HIV medicines when it is used to treat people who have tested positive for HIV. Nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors, or NRTIs, were the first class of drugs available to treat HIV. They are nicknamed “nukes” because they are potent and powerful but effective in treating HIV in combination with other medicines.
Currently available NRTIs include Ziagen (abacavir), Emtriva (emtricitabine), Epivir (lamivudine), tenofovir alafenamide, and Viread (tenofovir).
Though these drugs are an essential part of a person’s HIV treatment—bringing life-saving treatment options to HIV-positive individuals—they do not cure HIV or AIDS. There is no cure for HIV or AIDS, but these drugs can help people lead longer and fuller lives.
Drugs like Truvada also help protect people from contracting HIV and make it more difficult for people who are HIV positive to pass the virus on to others. It is important to continue practicing safe sex and using condoms to prevent the spread of HIV further.
Truvada Side Effects Can Lead to Potentially Deadly Complications
Several severe conditions reported in people taking HIV medicines like Truvada and Truvada for PrEP. The drug can cause kidney problems, including kidney failure, liver problems, bone problems, and a condition called lactic acidosis, which can lead to death if left untreated. Other more common side effects include abdominal pain, headache, weight loss, diarrhea, nausea, tiredness, dizziness, depression, problems sleeping, abnormal dreams, and rash.
The Truvada label warns patients to call their healthcare providers if they experience symptoms or adverse effects. Symptoms vary for each condition and side effect.
Symptoms of severe liver problems include (but are not limited to):
- Yellow skin and eyes
- Dark, “tea-colored” urine
- Light-colored stools
- Loss of appetite for several days or longer
- Stomach area pain
Truvada may lead to worse kidney problems—even kidney failure—in some people, and patients may have their blood tested before starting Truvada. If kidney problems develop, the patient will most likely need to stop taking Truvada.
If kidney problems go untreated, they may progress into kidney failure. Kidney failure is severe and could lead to death. Symptoms of kidney failure include:
- easy bleeding and bruising
- fatigue and drowsy feeling
- lowered mental alertness
- trouble concentrating
- nausea and vomiting
- general less desire to eat
- muscle cramps
- muscle twitching
- urinating at night
- numb sensation in the extremities
- itchy skin or eyes
- skin color changes
- swelling and puffiness
- difficulty breathing, due to fluid in the lungs
- high blood pressure
- decreased urine output;
- poor digestion
Bone problems may also develop and can even be a sign of decreased kidney function. Symptoms of bone problems include:
- persistent or worsening bone pain
- pain in extremities
- muscular pain or weakness
These adverse effects can be painful and may also lead to other complications. They can be life-threatening if not treated by a healthcare provider. If you suffer any of the symptoms associated with these potential side effects when taking Truvada, talk to your doctor right away. You may need to stop taking Truvada and find other HIV treatment options.
Truvada has a potential complication called lactic acidosis. Lactic acidosis occurs when too much lactic acid builds up in the blood. It is a severe but rare medical condition and should be treated right away by a doctor.
Some people may be at an increased risk for developing lactic acidosis. Taking HIV medicines like Truvada and Truvada for PrEP is one risk factor; other risk factors include (but are not limited to):
- being female pregnancy
- poor liver function
- lower CD4 cell count
Call your healthcare provider right away if you experience symptoms of lactic acidosis as it is a severe condition and can be fatal if not treated.
Symptoms of lactic acidosis include (but are not limited to):
- weakness or being more tired than usual
- unusual muscle pain
- being short of breath or fast breathing
- stomach pain with nausea and vomiting
- cold or blue hands and feet
- feeling dizzy or lightheaded
- rapid or abnormal heartbeat
How to Take Truvada
Truvada and Truvada for PrEP come in tablet form and should be taken once a day by mouth. The medicine can be taken with or without food but should be administered at around the same time each day to keep an individual’s Truvada blood levels constant. It is essential not to miss a dose of Truvada as it can lower the amount of the drug in a person’s blood, thus reducing the drug’s effectiveness.
Before a patient begins treatment with Truvada, their doctor will perform specific tests to ensure Truvada is a safe and effective option for them. These tests include Hepatitis B testing and HIV testing.
Patients who are at high risk of HIV infection and are using Truvada for PrEP will need to get tested for HIV every three months while taking Truvada to ensure they do not contract the virus. If they do, they will need to seek alternative treatment methods. Patients should call their Truvada for the PrEP provider for more information.
Patients using Truvada to treat their HIV infection must use another HIV medicine in combination with Truvada. Truvada is not a complete treatment for HIV.
People who took Truvada or Truvada for PrEP and developed severe side effects like kidney, liver, or bone problems or the severe and life-threatening condition lactic acidosis are now filing lawsuits against the manufacturer of the drug, Gilead Sciences Inc.
Truvada lawsuits accuse Gilead of manufacturing a defective product, failing to warn about the drug’s risks and negligence adequately.
Filing a lawsuit may be the only way to recoup damages, such as medical expenses and lost wages, incurred after taking a defective drug. Talking to an experienced attorney is the first step in holding the pharmaceutical companies accountable and getting the help you deserve.
If you took Truvada or Truvada for PrEP and developed a severe complication, you may be entitled to financial compensation. Call now to see if you qualify for a claim.