Study: No HIV in Hundreds of Gay Men Taking Preventive Drug

An observational study of 657 people at high risk of getting HIV infections found that Gilead's Truvada taken daily has prevented them from getting the virus. The CDC is promoting the drug regimen in a campaign called PrEP, for pre-exposure prophylaxis.

The HIV infection preventive drug combo marketed by Gilead as Truvada has apparently been completely effective in a large clinical practice setting, Kaiser-Permanente announced Sept. 2.

In an observational study, the California healthcare organization has tracked 657 people who began taking the pills (emtricitabine-tenofovir disoproxil fumarate) daily over a 32-month period.

Though the subjects reported an increase in sexually transmitted diseases other than HIV, there were no new cases of HIV infection, Kaiser epidemiologist Jonathan Volk, MD, reported. The findings are in a study in Clinical Infectious Disease.

The US Centers for Disease Control has been promoting the drug as part of a campaign to encourage pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).

In addition to offering protection from infection, the drug has been seen as enabling men at risk of contracting HIV to forgo condom use—which could explain the rise in syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia infections. About half the subjects in the study came down with those STDs, Kaiser reported. Condom use is recommended.

Nearly all the patients tracked by Kaiser are gay men and 84% of them said they had multiple sex partners.

The US Food and Drug Administration approved Truvada in 2012. It costs about $1,400 for a month’s supply; most insurers cover it. The drug also has potential side effects, including kidney and liver damage.

In the journal article the authors note that getting people who are at risk to take the drug daily remains a significant challenge.