FDA approves second drug to prevent HIV infection

A man checks in with a program manager after driving nearly three hours to get to his appointment at Open Arms Healthcare Center on Wednesday, January 23, 2019, in Jackson, MS. Open Arms provides PrEP, or Pre-exposure prophylaxis, which is “a way for people who do not have HIV but who are at substantial risk of getting it to prevent HIV infection by taking a pill every day,” according to the CDC.

Jahi Chikwendiu | The Washington Post | Getty Images

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the second drug to help prevent HIV infections on Thursday.

Descovy is a PrEP or pre-exposure prophylaxis drug, which means the drug is taken daily to lower the risk of getting HIV among people who don’t have the disease but are at risk.

“PrEP drugs are highly effective when taken as indicated in the drug labeling and can prevent HIV infection,” said Jeffrey Murray, M.D., deputy director of the Antiviral products division at the FDA.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 38,739 people received an HIV diagnosis in the U.S. in 2017.

The FDA says that their aim is to reduce new HIV infections by 75% in the next five years and by 90% in the next ten years, a goal that would prevent an estimated 250,000 new HIV infections.

Descovy was developed by Gilead Sciences and first approved by the FDA in 2016. The HIV drug’s trial was conducted among a randomized, double-blind multinational group of 5,387 HIV-negative sexually active men and transgender women at risk of HIV infection who were followed for 48 to 96 weeks.

It’s effectiveness was then compared to Truvada, another PrEP drug by Gilead, and found to have similar preventative measures, with the only common side effect being diarrhea.

The FDA recommends the drug be used as part of a comprehensive strategy to prevent HIV with daily use being combined with safer sex practices like condoms.

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