HIV Drug Side Effects May Have Been Avoided With Safer Tenofovir Versions

Harvey Kirk

By Harvey Kirk
Posted October 17, 2019


The product liability lawyers at Saiontz & Kirk, P.A. are reviewing potential claims for individuals who suffered side effects from HIV drugs that are part of a class of medications known as tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF), which includes the medications Truvada, Atripla, Stribild, Complera and Viread.


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Saiontz & Kirk, PA, Attorneys & Lawyers, Baltimore, MD

These drugs have been linked to a number of toxic and debilitating side effects for bones and kidneys, including:

  • Chronic Kidney Disease
  • Acute Kidney Injury
  • Kidney Failure
  • Bone Fractures
  • Osteoporosis, Osteopenia, Osteaomalacia
  • Tooth Loss or Dental Problems
  • Wrongful Death

Current users of Truvada, Viread, Atripla, Complera and Stribild should not stop taking their HIV medication without first speaking with their doctor. However, lawsuits allege that Gilead knew about a safer formulation for treatment and prevention of HIV, known as tenofovir alafenamide (TAF).

Rather than adequately warning consumers and the medical community, it appears the drug maker engaged in a “scheme” to withhold these safer treatments, so that it could maximize profits on the toxic TDF drugs that remained under patent exclusivity.

Many individuals living with HIV or taking these drugs for PrEP treatment to avoid developing the disease may have suffered severe and potentially life-threatening injuries if Gilead had warned about the potential HIV drug side effects and sold the safest available medications.

Starting in 2001, Gilead began developing a monopoly over HIV treatments, with the introduction of Viread as the first TDF-based medication, which delivered the compound tenofovir in pill form. Soon after, however, experts realized HIV needed to be fought with a cocktail of antiviral medications, meaning all future treatments should be combination drugs.

Gilead followed Viread with the introduction Truvada in 2004, Atripla in 2006, Complera in 2011 and Stribild in 2012. All of these were HIV “cocktails”, combining TDF with one or two other treatments.

Throughout this time, it was known that TDF drugs were highly toxic and posed serious risks of kidney side effects and bone deterioration. These side effects are linked to higher doses of tenofovir and long-term user of the medications.

Although Gilead knew about this risk, and that individuals were taking the HIV drugs long-term to avoid progression of the disease, they failed to warn about the potential side effects and delayed development of a known safer alternative.

TAF-Based HIV Drugs Were Known To Be Safer

As early as 2004, Gilead knew about the potential to develop and sell safer HIV drugs, involving a compound known as TAF, which is absorbed into cells that HIV targets in a more efficient way, allowing much lower doses of the toxic compound tenofovir.

HIV and PrEP Drug Side Effects

Find Out if Side Effects of HIV and PrEP Drugs May Have Been Avoided

TAF drugs require smaller doses, meaning less chance of side effects from the HIV drug toxicity. For example, 25 mg of a TAF drug can be as effective as a 300 mg dose of a TDF drug.

Just as Viread and Truvada were growing to become “blockbuster” drugs, accounting for billions in annual sales for the drug maker, Gilead decided in 2004 to stop all development for TAF drugs.

According to allegations raised in lawsuits being pursued, this was an intentional “scheme” designed to maximize profits while Gilead held an exclusive patent for TDF drugs, delaying competition from generic equivalents for the revenue generating product.

Gilead did not begin to introduce safer TAF drugs until 2015, just as generic versions of Viread, Truvada and other TDF drugs were approaching the market. To continue massive sales and an essential monopoly in HIV treatments, Gilead has introduced safer TAF alternatives under the brand names Genvoya, Odefsey, Descovy and others.

It appears Gilead sat on this safer formulation for at least 11 years while it continued to make billions of dollars letting patients take the more toxic formulations, leaving thousands of individuals who relied on the HIV drugs with severe side effects and injuries that could have been avoided.

Lawyers for Side Effects of Truvada, Viread, Atripla, Complera and Stribild

The HIV drug attorneys at Saiontz & Kirk, P.A. continue to review a growing number of TDF drug lawsuits filed by individuals nationwide who faithfully took Gilead’s HIV drugs, having nowhere else to turn and not realizing safer alternatives had been shelved to increase the company’s profit margin.

Individuals who have suffered kidney damage and bone loss injuries from taking Truvada, Atripla, Viread, Complera and Stribild may be eligible for financial compensation through a product liability lawsuit.

All claims are handled on a contingency fee basis and there are never any out-of-pocket expenses and no fees unless a recovery is obtained. Request a free consultation and claim evaluation.


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