What's Descovy, and does it work as PrEP?


What's Descovy, and does it work as PrEP?

Currently Truvada as PrEP is currently the only combination drug product proven to reduce a person’s risk of acquiring HIV.

However, there are many amazing new drugs being developed all the time to treat HIV. Some of those drugs are being studied to see if they might work as well as, or better than, Truvada as PrEP.


The DISCOVER trial is a study where over 5,000 cisgender men who have sex with men, and some transgender women were given either;

  • Descovy, and a pill that looks like Truvada (but isn’t), or

  • Truvada, and a pill that looks like Descovy (but isn’t)

People were asked to take both daily, so either way they were taking an effective HIV treatment medication. Only one is proven to work well to prevent HIV, so researchers wanted to see if one worked as well as the other.

Recently it was announced that early data looks good for Descovy as a candidate for PrEP. Only two men in the study (one taking Descovy, and one taking Truvada) acquired HIV despite taking the medication often enough to provide adequate protection from HIV.

So can I take it?

That’s not recommended yet. Once this new version of PrEP is approved for use we’ll have information on how it can be best accessed. And for the vast majority of people, Truvada will remain a safe, effective, and affordable way to prevent HIV.

Recently it was announced that Gilead (the maker of Truvada and Descovy) had submitted an application to have Descovy approved for PrEP in the United States. The submission is based on the data that has been released from the DISCOVER trial. We can expect an answer later in 2019 as to whether the application was successful.

Once approved in the U.S, It is likely that Gilead will follow suit and submit an application to list Descovy as PrEP here in Australia, where it can already be accessed for HIV treatment.

Why not just take Truvada?

 Some of the side effects of taking Truvada may include reduced kidney function or bone density issues for a small number of people. It’s thought that Descovy might be able to resolve some of those issues for anyone experiencing those side effects.