Truvada Injury & Risks

March 11, 2021 | Ed Bernstein
Truvada Injury & Risks

Truvada Injury Attorneys

bottle of Truvada pills

Truvada is an antiretroviral drug that contains the active ingredient tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF)  that has been shown to increase the risk of premature bone density decline and bone fractures, renal impairment, and kidney damage and/or failure. In extreme cases, these complications lead to death.

Truvada is one of the world’s most popular drugs for HIV treatment and prevention. However research supports that Gilead, the creator of Truvada, deliberately hid dangerous side effects of the drug that cause serious and permanent damage to users. There are more safe alternative drugs to Truvada for HIV treatment that do not pose the same serious risk to consumers.

What is Truvada?

Truvada is a prescription-only medication produced by Gilead that is used in the treatment and prevention of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). It was the first drug approved by the FDA in 2012 to treat individuals infected with HIV as well as prevent new infections in high-risk individuals. Those who take Truvada take it daily to treat current symptoms and for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in combination with safer sex practices. This helps reduce the risk for a partner acquiring HIV.

HIV is a potentially deadly virus that weakens an individual’s immune system by destroying white blood cells that are critical to the body’s ability to fight off disease and infection. If left untreated, HIV can completely destroy an individual’s immune system.

Truvada contains two drugs that work together to slow the effects of HIV and prolong the infected person’s life. Truvada is not able to cure HIV. The main components of Truvada (known as antiretrovirals) are tenofovir (TDF) and emtricitabine.

Truvada Injuries and Health Complications

Truvada and other drugs containing TDF have been linked to dangerous health complications in those taking the drug. The most common Truvada side effects are:

  • Bone density loss 
  • Renal impairment
  • Kidney damage or failure

In serious cases, these side effects can lead to death.

Bone Density Injury

A 2010 study on Truvada found nearly 10,000 reports of bone density loss. The study found a documented correlation in bone density loss in HIV-infected individuals, particularly in conjunction with the antiretroviral drug TDF. 

A later study in 2016 showed that Gilead’s tenofovir has a 1-3% greater bone density loss than similar antiretroviral drugs. This also led to an increase in osteoporosis, a condition in which bones are weakened and can fracture due to a small falls or stress. 

Symptoms of osteoporosis include:

  • Back pain
  • Loss of height over time
  • A stooped posture
  • A bone that breaks much easier than usual

Chronic Kidney Disease

Almost 20,000 of those taking the drug Truvada reported kidney damage of some sort. The kidney is important in filtering waste from the bloodstream into urine and eventually out of the body. Kidneys are typically resilient to damage but once they are injured it is difficult to reverse the damage done. Many that ingested TDF later reported chronic kidney disease.

Symptoms of chronic kidney disease include:

  • Weight loss and loss of appetite
  • Swollen feet, hands, or ankles - as a result of water retention (oedema)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Increased urination frequency
  • Blood in urine 
  • Itchy skin
  • High blood pressure
  • Abnormal glomerular filtration rate (GFR) levels (15 to 90) as determined by tests and blood work
  • Death from renal failure

Individuals who took Gilead’s drugs containing TDF are at risk of developing other kidney related conditions, including:

  • Renal tubular acidosis: A kidney condition involving the build-up of acid in the bloodstream due to the kidneys inability to filter correctly.
  • Acute kidney injury (AKI) or acute renal failure (ARF): A kidney disorder in which the kidneys experience difficulty filtering waste from the blood.
  • Fanconi syndrome: A kidney disorder that leads to excessive levels of glucose, potassium, and bicarbonate to be excreted in the urine.

Gilead’s Harmful Lie

Gilead is the world’s leader of manufacturing HIV drugs. In 2017 alone, Gilead generated $11 billion in sales. Gilead was even warned by the FDA about misleading the public about the dangers of Truvada and TDF in which they sent multiple letters to Gilead criticizing the company’s statements about the medication. 

Starting in 2002, the FDA wrote letters to Gilead about how the corporation had minimized the risks of Truvada along with making false claims about its efficacy. Gilead commonly referred to the drug as a “miracle drug without toxicities” and did not market the inherent kidney danger as a known side effect. 

The first warning from the FDA to Gilead was sent on March 14th, 2002. Gilead’s sales representatives were cited making false claims about Truvada, saying that it was “extremely safe”, a ‘miracle drug” with “no toxicities”. This was all while the known danger of kidney failure was printed on the label of Truvada but not referenced by Gilead sales representatives. In 2014, 12 years later, the same issue was found by the FDA as Truvada’s online advertisements did not reference kidney or bone risks with the drug.

The second warning from the FDA came in 2003 but no changes were made from Gilead. So, in 2004 the FDA had to ask Gilead to remove a sponsored advertisement online that misrepresented the safety of Truvada and other TDF drugs. Again the company failed to mention the known risks of kidney damage and bone density issues.

Gilead Putting People at Risk by Withholding a Safer Drug

Perhaps most egregious of all, Gilead actually had a safer alternative to TDF called TAF that they chose to withhold from the market for over a decade in order to maximize profits from TDF. Instead of implementing the use of the safer drug, Gilead chose to sell TDF until their patent had ended and then claimed that they found a safer alternative later on. 

The Truvada Lawsuit

So far there have been two lawsuits filed against Gilead over their promotion and marketing of Truvada. Victims who had suffered bone and kidney damage as a result of taking Truvada and the toxic active ingredient TDF have filed in the Supreme Court of the State of California. TDF has been shown to be toxic after consumption for long periods of time. 

These lawsuits led to a JCCP 5043 litigation in California under the honorable Judge Cheng. The judge has already denied Gilead’s motion to dismiss. Due to COVID-19, the litigation process has been slow, but case management orders are being filed on these Truvada lawsuits.

Speak to an Attorney Today About Your Truvada Lawsuit

If you or a loved one has suffered from the effects of taking Truvada or other drugs containing TDF, you may be entitled to financial compensation. The effects of taking a harmful drug can be devastating, which is why you need representation from an experienced attorney who will fight for you and stand by your side. The attorneys at Edward M. Bernstein & Associates have the experience and dedication to get you the settlement that you deserve. 

While the physical side effects from taking a dangerous drug can be life changing, the financial and emotional losses can be debilitating as well. However, with the right attorney you can recover losses and damages from:

  • Lost wages
  • Medical Expenses
  • Funeral Costs
  • Loss of ability to work
  • Pain or suffering

If a family member or loved one passes away due to complications from a drug like Truvada, the family members may be entitled to damages for the wrongful death of a loved one, such as:

  • Funeral Expenses
  • Loss of economic support
  • Medical expenses prior to death

Raise Awareness and Protect Your Rights

If a jury is to find that a drug company like Gilead is guilty of acting in a reckless manner and marketing their product incorrectly, they may be subject to punitive damages that set the tone for ethical corporate conduct and keep future consumers safe. Companies like Gilead need to be held accountable for their actions and compensate those that they have harmed for years. 

If you or a loved one have been injured by taking Truvada or any drug containing the active ingredient TDF, please call Edward M. Bernstein & Associates at 703-213-7012 to discuss your options with an experienced attorney.


Ed Bernstein

Edward M. Bernstein, Esq. is the owner and founding partner of Edward M. Bernstein & Associates, and one of the most recognizable figures in Nevada. Ed is one of state’s premier personal injury attorneys and has hosted The Ed Bernstein Show for over 31 years. He has served the Las Vegas community for decades with dozens of community appointments and terms of service. In the year 2000, he was Nevada’s Democratic nominee for the United States Senate.

Ed received his B.A. from Long Island University in 1971 and his J.D. from Widener University in 1975. Since then, Ed’s professional accolades include numerous publications, honors and awards, court appointments, and has been named one of America’s Top 100 High Stakes Litigators.