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What Is Atripla®?

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  • Written By: T. Broderick
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 26 August 2014
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Atripla® is an oral, once-a-day medication used to treat HIV. Developed as a cooperation between Gilead Sciences and Bristol-Myers Squibb, the drug combines three separate HIV medications. Approved by the American Food and Drug Administration in 2006, this combination medication greatly simplifies a patient's treatment schedule. Like many HIV anti-retroviral medications, Atripla® is very expensive. Side effects of the medication are generally mild but can become serious if a patient has hepatitis along with HIV.

A single dose of Atripla® combines three anti-retroviral medications previously used to treat HIV: efavirenz, tenofovir and emtricitabine. Efavirenz, developed in 1998, is prescribed both to treat HIV and prevent its transmission to individuals recently exposed to the virus from needles or unprotected sex. Tenofovir blocks an enzyme needed by HIV to reproduce. Emtricitabine is like tenofovir as it impedes HIV's ability to replicate. Combined, these three medications create a powerful tool in suppressing the virus in the human body.

Atripla® is the first daily dose mediation approved in the United States to treat HIV. Before its approval, patients faced strict medication schedules that involved different medications throughout the day. Taking different medications also meant more side effects and drug interactions for patients. Atripla® and similar medications approved after 2006 greatly simplify the process of managing HIV. This convenience, though, is extremely expensive.

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Atripla® is patented and co-owned by Gilead Sciences and Bristol-Myers Squibb. As of January 2011, a one month's supply of the medication in the United States is $1,850 US Dollars (USD). International licensing agreements have made the medication less expensive in countries such as India. Even where the medication is cheaper, though, the cost per unit is still out of reach for many HIV positive individuals.

Though a benefit of Atripla® is the reduced number of side effects when compared to a traditional cocktail of HIV medication, serious complications can still occur. Headaches and upset stomach are the most reported side effect. Others experience mood swings, depression and mild hallucinations. In rare cases, individuals experience liver damage; it is most likely when patients are co-infected with hepatitis. A physician may prescribe a different set of anti-retrovirals if these latter symptoms begin to manifest.

Certain medications may cause dangerous drug interactions with Atripla®. These medications include prescription antihistamines and anti-seizure drugs. Before beginning any new medication to treat HIV, fully disclosing the medications one is taking to a physician greatly reduces the chances of drug interaction.

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