Yesterday, (16 July 2012) news emerged that Truvada, a new HIV drug, has been given the go-ahead by the Food and Drug Administration.
Having been in development for several years, the drug could be a groundbreaking new treatment to combat the contraction of the deadly disease. As opposed to most anti-retroviral medication available today – which is taken post-infection, this drug is actually a preventative one.
According to Truvada’s official website, www.truvada.com, the pill can be taken daily, with or without food, alongside other anti-HIV drugs to prevent contraction. However, the drug’s makers stress that the medication is not a cure for HIV or AIDS, and people that suspect they already have the disease should avoid taking it.
FDA commissioner Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg released a statement proclaiming, ‘Today’s approval marks an important milestone in our fight against HIV. Every year, about 50,000 U.S. adults and adolescents are diagnosed with HIV infection, despite the availability of prevention methods and strategies to educate, test, and care for people living with the disease’.
‘New treatments as well as prevention methods are needed to fight the HIV epidemic in this country.’
Through a series of clinical trials with Truvada it has been reported that, when taken daily, the risk of HIV infection was reduced by 42%. Another study with heterosexual couples, where one of the partners was infected, found that when taking the new drug, combined with consistent condom use, the chance of infection was cut down by 75%.
It is important to mention here that the practice of safe sex is necessary alongside taking Truvada and is highly recommended by the FDA, which also suggests risk reduction counselling and regular HIV testing.
As with most drugs there are side affects, which according to Truvada’s website include diarrhoea, depression, abnormal dreams and trouble sleeping. Other reports have also suggested that in rare cases the drug may lead to kidney problems.
However, the drug has come under fierce criticism from The AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which released a statement saying, ‘The FDA’s approval of Truvada as a form of HIV prevention, without any requirement for HIV testing, is completely reckless and a move that will ultimately set back years of HIV prevention efforts’. It continued by saying it believed the move would ‘result in new infections, drug resistance and serious side effects among many, many people’, and even blasted the FDA for what they noted was ‘the equivalence of malpractice.’
According to Gilead Sciences, the makers of the pill, Truvada is expected to cost nearly $13,900 a year for treatment in the U.S.
Would you take Truvada as a prevention for HIV? Are the possible side effects worth the risk? We’d like to hear your thoughts. Comment on this article or Tweet us at @sosogay and let us know.