When new medicines came to market in the 1990s and 2000s, they drastically changed the way people with HIV and AIDS were treated—often making the difference between life and death. HIV medications, including nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors, or NRTIs, meant an HIV diagnosis didn’t have to be a death sentence and turned the virus into a manageable, chronic condition.
A new drug hit the market in 2004 that, in combination with NRTIs and other HIV medicines, could treat people who tested positive for HIV. The drug, Truvada, has since been approved to treat HIV-negative adults and protect them from contracting the virus and was recently approved to protect teens who test negative for HIV. When used as protection instead of treatment, it is called Truvada for pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP.
Although Truvada has helped treat and protects many people from HIV infection, the drug has been potentially harmful to others. Like most HIV medicines, Truvada can put some people at an increased risk for serious side effects, including lactic acidosis, a potentially deadly adverse effect, kidney, and liver problems. For anyone seeking to take Truvada or other similar medications for HIV prevention or treatment, it is essential to understand all of the risks associated with the drugs to make an informed decision when talking with a healthcare provider.
Patients who started treatment with Truvada and subsequently developed a severe condition like lactic acidosis are beginning to file lawsuits against the drug, and its manufacturer, Gilead Sciences Inc. These lawsuits accuse Gilead Sciences of manufacturing a defective product and not informing the public of all the potential risks associated with the drug, among other allegations. If you took Truvada and developed lactic acidosis or severe kidney or liver problems, you may qualify for a Truvada lawsuit and should file a claim today.
What is Truvada and Truvada PrEP?
Truvada is a prescription 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. Truvada for PrEP is the same drug as Truvada but is used alone to protect individuals who are at high risk of HIV infection but are not infected.
HIV is short for human immunodeficiency virus. It is a potent and potentially deadly virus that attacks the human immune system, leaving those infected susceptible to other infections. The virus destroys the body’s T-helper cells, a type of white blood cell, by making copies of itself inside those cells. It then gradually takes over the immune system. If untreated, HIV will eventually annihilate the immune system. Since a healthy immune system is the body’s only defense against infections and diseases, untreated HIV usually leads to death.
Sometimes, untreated HIV will develop into AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), referring to a set of symptoms caused by HIV. Avert, an organization that provides information and education about HIV and AIDS provides the following explanation of what AIDS is: “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.”
There is no cure for HIV or AIDS. Even currently available HIV medicines are not a cure for the virus. These medicines are, however, an essential part of a person’s HIV treatment and bring life-saving treatment options to HIV-positive individuals, allowing them to live longer, fuller lives.
For individuals using Truvada to treat an HIV infection, they must take the drug in combination with other HIV medicines for a complete treatment option. Nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors, or NRTIs, are popular medicines often used with Truvada. NRTIs were the first class of drugs approved to treat HIV. NRTIs sometimes are called “nukes” because they are extremely powerful but effective in managing HIV.
Some of the NRTIs currently available on the market include Ziagen (abacavir), Emtriva (emtricitabine), Epivir (lamivudine), tenofovir alafenamide, and Viread (tenofovir).
Truvada is also used to help protect people from contracting HIV (Truvada for PrEP) and makes it more difficult to pass the virus along to others. It is still important to continue practicing safe sex and using condoms even when taking Truvada to prevent the spread of HIV further.
Truvada Side Effects May Lead to Potentially Harmful Complications
Truvada and Truvada for PrEP, like some other HIV medicines, have been associated with several serious side effects. People taking the drug have reported kidney problems, including kidney failure, liver problems, bone problems, and a condition known as lactic acidosis, which can lead to death if not treated.
Some more common side effects of Truvada and Truvada for PrEP include abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea, weight loss, tiredness, headache, dizziness, depression, rash, problems sleeping, and abnormal dreams.
The Truvada label urges patients to call their healthcare providers if they experience any of the symptoms associated with these adverse effects. The symptoms vary by condition and side effect.
Some of the symptoms of severe liver problems (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 could potentially lead to worsening kidney problems, including kidney failure, in some people. Patients might need to have their blood tested before starting Truvada. If kidney problems develop, that patient will most likely have to stop taking Truvada.
Kidney problems that go untreated may progress into kidney failure. Kidney failure is a life-threatening condition that could lead to death. Some 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, often linked to Truvada, can also be a sign of decreased kidney function. Some symptoms of bone problems include:
- persistent or worsening bone pain
- pain in extremities
- muscular pain or weakness
Adverse effects such as these can be painful and might also lead to other dangerous complications. If not addressed by a healthcare provider, some of these side effects could be life-threatening and lead to death. If you suffer from any of these symptoms when taking Truvada, you should talk to your healthcare provider right away. You may need to seek other HIV treatments and stop taking Truvada.
Truvada has a potential complication called lactic acidosis. Lactic acidosis is a rare but serious medical condition that occurs when too much lactic acid builds up in the blood. It should be treated by a doctor right away.
Some people may be at an increased risk for developing lactic acidosis compared to others. One risk factor is taking HIV medicines like Truvada and Truvada for PrEP. Other risk factors include (but are not limited to):
- being female
- poor liver function
- lower CD4 cell count
Lactic acidosis is a serious condition that could be fatal if left untreated. Call your healthcare provider right away if you experience symptoms of lactic acidosis.
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
Truvada comes in the form of a tablet and should be administered by mouth once a day. Truvada can be taken with food or without food, but it should always be taken around the same time each day. This regiment helps keep a person’s Truvada blood levels constant. It is also important not to miss a dose of Truvada because it can lower the amount of drug in the blood, thereby decreasing the drug’s effectiveness.
Doctors may perform different tests before prescribing Truvada to ensure the drug is a safe and effective option for each patient. Some tests include a Hepatitis B test and HIV testing.
If a patient is at high risk of an HIV infection and is using Truvada for PrEP, that patient will need to be tested for HIV every three months while taking Truvada. This testing is to ensure they do not contract the virus; if they do, they will have to seek additional treatment methods because Truvada is not a complete treatment for HIV. Patients should talk to their Truvada for the PrEP provider for more information.
Patients who used Truvada or Truvada for PrEP and experienced severe side effects like lactic acidosis, or kidney, liver, or bone problems, are beginning to file lawsuits against the manufacturer of the drug, Gilead Sciences Inc.
These lawsuits accuse Gilead of manufacturing a defective product, failing to warn about the drug’s risks and negligence adequately.
Often, filing a lawsuit is the only way to get compensation for damages such as lost wages or medical expenses incurred after taking a defective drug. Talking with an experienced attorney is a step towards understanding the help you deserve and holding those pharmaceutical companies accountable for the harm they may have caused.
If you took Truvada or Truvada for PrEP and developed a severe complication, you may be entitled to financial compensation. Contact our office to see if you qualify for a claim.