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An Overview of Descovy (Emtricitabine/Tenofovir Alafenamide)

March 5, 2018

Brand Name: Descovy
Other Name(s): FTC/TAF, emtricitabine/tenofovir AF, emtricitabine/tenofovir alafenamide fumarate
Drug Class: Combination Drugs

Descovy pill


Descovy can cause serious, life-threatening side effects. These include a buildup of lactic acid in the blood (lactic acidosis) and liver problems.

Contact your health care provider right away if you have any of the following symptoms that could be signs of lactic acidosis:

  • Weakness or tiredness
  • Unusual (not normal) muscle pain
  • Trouble breathing
  • Stomach pain with nausea or vomiting
  • Feeling cold, especially in your arms and legs
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat

Contact your health care provider right away if you have any of the following symptoms that could be signs of liver problems:

  • Yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes (jaundice)
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Light-colored bowel movements
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Pain or tenderness on the right side or your stomach area (abdominal pain)

Descovy is not approved for the treatment of chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection. If you have both HIV and HBV infection and take Descovy, your HBV infection may get much worse (flare up) if you stop taking Descovy.

While taking Descovy, it is important to keep all of your appointments with your health care provider.

What Is Descovy?

Descovy is a prescription medicine approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of HIV infection in adults and children who weigh at least 77 pounds (35 kilograms). It is also approved for children who weigh at least 55 pounds (25 kilograms) and less than 77 pounds (35 kilograms) when used together with certain other HIV medicines. Descovy is always used in combination with other HIV medicines. Your health care provider will determine which other HIV medicines you will take.

Descovy contains the following two different medicines combined in one tablet:

NRTIs block an HIV enzyme called reverse transcriptase. (An enzyme is a protein that starts or increases the speed of a chemical reaction.) By blocking reverse transcriptase, the two drugs in combination prevent HIV from multiplying and can reduce the amount of HIV in the body.

HIV medicines can't cure HIV/AIDS, but taking a combination of HIV medicines (called an HIV regimen) every day helps people with HIV live longer, healthier lives. HIV medicines also reduce the risk of HIV transmission. If you are taking HIV medicines, including Descovy, don't cut down on, skip, or stop taking them unless your health care provider tells you to.


What Should I Tell My Health Care Provider Before Taking Descovy?

Before taking Descovy, tell your health care provider:

  • If you are allergic to any of the HIV medicines in Descovy (emtricitabine or tenofovir alafenamide) or any other medicines.
  • If you have liver problems, including HBV infection. Before taking Descovy, you must be tested for HBV infection.
  • If you have kidney problems.
  • If you have any other medical conditions.
  • If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. Whether Descovy can harm an unborn baby is unknown. Talk to your health care provider about possible risks with taking Descovy when pregnant.
  • If you are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. Do not breastfeed if you have HIV or are taking Descovy.
  • If you are using hormone-based birth control (such as pills, implants, or vaginal rings). For more information about using birth control and HIV medicines at the same time, view the AIDSinfo HIV and Birth Control infographic.
  • About other prescription and nonprescription medicines, vitamins, nutritional supplements, and herbal products (particularly St. John's wort) you are taking or plan to take. Descovy may affect the way other medicines or products work, and other medicines or products may affect how Descovy works. Taking Descovy together with certain medicines or products may cause serious side effects.

How Should I Take Descovy?

Descovy comes in tablet form. Each tablet contains:

  • 200 mg of emtricitabine (brand name: Emtriva)
  • 25 mg of tenofovir alafenamide

Take Descovy according to your health care provider's instructions.

Take Descovy once each day with or without food.

Always take Descovy in combination with other HIV medicines.

If you take too much Descovy, contact your health care provider or local poison control center (1-800-222-1222) right away, or go to the nearest hospital emergency room.

For more information on how to take Descovy, see the FDA drug label from DailyMed. (DailyMed is a federal website that includes the most recent drug labels submitted to FDA.)

What Should I Do If I Forget a Dose?

If you miss a dose of Descovy, contact your health care provider.

What Side Effects Can Descovy Cause?

Descovy may cause side effects. Many side effects from HIV medicines, such as nausea or occasional dizziness, are manageable. See the AIDSinfo fact sheet on HIV Medicines and Side Effects for more information.

Some side effects from Descovy can be serious. Serious side effects of Descovy include a buildup of lactic acid in the blood (lactic acidosis) and liver problems. (See the WARNING box above.)

Other possible side effects of Descovy include:

  • Changes in your immune system (called immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome or IRIS). IRIS is a condition that sometimes occurs when the immune system begins to recover after treatment with an HIV medicine. As the immune system gets stronger, it may have an increased response to a previously hidden infection.
  • New or worsening kidney problems (including kidney failure).

Tell your health care provider if you have any side effect that bothers you or that does not go away.

These are not all the possible side effects of Descovy. To learn more about possible side effects of Descovy, read the drug label or package insert or talk to your health care provider or pharmacist.

You can also report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088 (1-800-332-1088) or online at

How Should Descovy Be Stored?

  • Store Descovy below 86°F (30°C).
  • Keep Descovy in the container that it came in and keep the container tightly closed. If the container has a small packet of drying agent (called a desiccant), do not remove it. The desiccant protects the medicine from moisture.
  • Do not use Descovy if the original seal over the container opening is broken or missing.
  • Throw away Descovy that is no longer needed or expired (out of date). Follow FDA guidelines on how to safely dispose of unused medicine.
  • Keep Descovy and all medicines out of reach of children.

Where Can I Find More Information About Descovy?

More information about Descovy is available:

Manufacturer Information

Gilead Sciences, Inc.
Main number: 800-445-3235
Patient assistance: 800-226-2056

The above Patient Version drug summary is based on the following FDA label(s): Tablet (film coated).

[Note from TheBody: This article was created by AIDSinfo, who last updated it on March 5, 2018. We have cross-posted it with their permission.]

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This article was provided by AIDSinfo. Visit the AIDSinfo website to find out more about their activities and publications.

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