By Jeff Berry
Information about HIV and HIV medications can often be quite technical and even overwhelming. As with most things, it's best if you lay a firm foundation by the learning the basics.
Everyone has to begin somewhere when learning about HIV, and if you have questions about your treatment, be sure to check with your care provider, pharmacist, or local HIV/AIDS service organization.
Medications that are included in the HIV Drug Guide are only those drugs in the U.S. that are either FDA approved and currently on the market, are now (or soon to be) available through an expanded access program (EAP), or are expected to be FDA approved in the coming year.
Drugs are color-coded by class and are listed alphabetically by brand name (capitalized) or generic name (lower case) if not yet FDA approved. The brand name is listed first, then the generic name (scientific designation), and any abbreviations. The navigation column on the left-hand side of this page lists all the dugs in the Drug Guide accordingly. Example: Isentress is the brand name, raltegravir is the generic name, and RAL is the abbreviation. Remember that even though every drug has a generic name, not all are available in generic form. When a drug is available as a generic, it will be indicated in the "Standard dose" section of the drug's page.
New this year: when a drug is available in generic form, or when it is part of a multi-drug combination, it will be referred to by its generic name. Example: Retrovir, also known as AZT, is available in generic form as zidovudine. Therefore, on the Combivir page, it is referred to as zidovudine since it is part of Combivir. However, you should still look for the Retrovir page to find information on zidovudine. Note: In the doctor's comments on each drug page, the drugs are sometimes referred to by their most commonly known abbreviation.
Drugs used to treat HIV should be taken in combination, using medications from two or more different classes of drug. To learn more about how the different drug classes work, click here.
A fixed dose combination (FDC) combines two or more drugs in one tablet or capsule, such as Epzicom (lamivudine/abacavir). A single-tablet regimen (STR) contains several drugs from different drug classes and is a complete regimen in one pill, such as Atripla (efavirenz/emtricitabine/tenofovir). Atripla and Complera are two single-tablet regimens that are now available, with approval of another STR, the "Quad," expected sometime during 2012.
The Average Wholesale Price (AWP) is used by pharmacies and other buyers to negotiate the amount they pay for drugs. The AWP is included as a way to compare the costs of the drugs. It is not necessarily what you would pay out-of-pocket if you do not have drug insurance coverage.
The side effect and drug interaction charts make it easier to identify some of the more common side effects and interactions. Always refer to the individual drug pages, package insert, or talk to your physician or pharmacist for complete information.
Paying for your medications can often be a challenge, but there are programs that can help cover all or part of the costs. For a complete list of HIV drug co-pay and patient assistance programs, click here.
The HIV treatment guidelines are established by a panel of experts in conjunction with the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). The guidelines should be used by both physicians and patients to help inform treatment decisions. They're available as a downloadable PDF at www.aidsinfo.nih.gov, or go to www.positivelyaware.com/2012/12_02/guidelines.shtml.
From Aptivus to Ziagen, you can now easily read up on each drug by entering its name after our URL. For example, you'll find the Drug Guide's page for Crixivan by typing www.positivelyaware.com/crixivan.
Finally, remember that all treatment decisions should be made in partnership with your health care provider. Knowledge is power, and armed with the right tools -- the most up-to-date, accurate information -- you can learn to take control of not only the virus, but also of your health care and the quality of your life.