A new study has officially eased the concerns many persons had about the health risks involved in taking HIV-preventing PrEP drugs like the once a day pill Truvada, by announcing them to be as safe as taking an aspirin a day to help prevent a heart attack.
Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) drug Truvada has been declared to drastically reduce a person’s chances of becoming infected with HIV if it is taken daily. Truvada and aspirin were recently compared by researchers who were trying to determine the health risks, if any, involved with the HIV preventing drug. The risk profiles that have been published in other studies were used to compare both pills and found that both were safe. Aspirin does have a list of distinct side effects that are mirrored by Truvada, the most common of which are dizziness, vomiting, and weight loss — aspirin, unlike the HIV drug, can also be associated with bleeding problems — but all those mentioned rarely occur.
The Pill That Prevents HIV Is As Safe As Daily Aspirin https://t.co/rvqFGYr6J0
— BuzzFeed LGBT (@BuzzFeedLGBT) January 17, 2016
Since the drug first became known, Truvada has gained a prominent support through organizations such as World Health Organisation and tends to be readily available to the average gay man who is seeking protection. Pink News reported that despite a successful clinical trial though, the HIV-preventing drug is still not available in the UK.
During the study of Aspirin and Truvada, researchers apparently compared five major studies on PrEP’s safety versus only two of those studying aspirin safety and scored them based on the likelihood that there would be reports of side effects. The culture surrounding the drugs is also believed to play a part in the numerous concerns regarding safety that Truvada has. While aspirin has been around for centuries and has been shown to be successful as a preventative tool against heart attacks, the stigma surrounding HIV and individual sexual habits means the new drug is at a disadvantage mentally.
The lead author of the study and professor of medicine and public health at the University of California, Los Angeles, Jeffrey Klausner believes that though aspirin and Truvada affect different organs, they have the same risk factors, and in fact Truvada had a better safety profile. He also stated that, even though aspirin is so common, it is not safe for everyone.
“Everyone’s got aspirin in their medicine cabinet. But as a physician I’ve seen people come into the hospital and die from aspirin overdoses — people can be allergic.”
The FDA approved Truvada for HIV prevention in 2012 after studies showed that the pill is roughly 92% efficient in preventing the transmission of HIV. Buzzfeed News revealed that an estimate by the Center For Disease Control (CDC) showed that about about 1.2 million Americans are at high risk for contracting HIV and should be prescribed the drug, but currently only about 21,000 currently persons are getting it.
— Stronger Together (@StrongerTogethr) January 8, 2016
Knowledge of the pill is an issue that has been tackled, and a CDC study showed that in 2015 only about one-third of primary care doctors and nurses had never heard of Truvada. Those, though, were reluctant to have any side effect, no matter how minor, occur in otherwise healthy patients and thus tended to refrain from prescribing the drug. Instead, Klausner says they are trying to continue with the system already in place.
“A lot of the concerns I hear from providers are about safety. There have been continued voices saying, ‘Wouldn’t it just be better if people used condoms, or reduced their number of partners?’ Those are important strategies, but they don’t work for everyone.”
Klausner hopes are that as each new study comes out and the public as well as doctors will take the time to educate themselves about the HIV prevention drug. Following this, the professor says that the next step is making it as affordable as aspirin.
[Photo Courtesy of Justin Sullivan/ Gety Images]