A safer alternative to a once-daily HIV pill just got approved - here's what you need to know about it

Genvoya bottle GSIpill

Gilead Sciences

The FDA just approved a new treatment for HIV.

Genvoya, a combination pill developed by Gilead Sciences Inc. that only has to be taken once a day, is the first if its kind to get the agency's green light.

The drug is approved to treat anyone with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) who's 12 or older and just starting HIV treatment. It works by interfering with a special protein necessary for HIV to multiply. Keeping the amount of HIV in the blood low is key for suppressing symptoms of the virus.

Here's what you need to know:

  • Genvoya is a combo of the drugs elvitegravir, cobicistat, emtricitabine, and tenofovir alafenamide. Only tenofovir alafenamide is new.
  • In a late-stage trial, the drug proved just as effective as Truvada, Gilead's other combination pill that was approved in 2004.
  • Compared with Truvada, Genvoya had better long-term safety in trials. It is also less toxic to kidneys and has less of a negative impact on bone density.
  • Genvoya, like other HIV medications, carries what's called a "black box warning," which details some of the extreme adverse events that can happen while on the drug.
  • In the case of Genvoya, that includes possible lactic acid buildup in the blood and severe liver problems, which can both be life-threatening.
Essentially, Genvoya is set up to replace Truvada as a safer alternative. Having a new once-daily pill with lessened effects to bones and kidneys could be good news for the estimated 1.2 million people in the US living with HIV.