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What is Biktarvy used for?

Medically reviewed by Melisa Puckey, BPharm Last updated on May 8, 2020.

Official Answer

by Drugs.com

Biktarvy is a tablet that contains three different antiviral medicines and is used to treat people infected with the HIV-1 virus (human immunodeficiency virus type 1).

Biktarvy can be used in patients who weight 25kg (55lb) or more, and

  • Who have never taken antiretroviral medicines, or
  • Are replacing their current antiretroviral medicines 
    • that they have been stable on, AND
    • their virus levels are suppressed (which means that the HIV-1 virus levels are less than 50 copies per mL) AND
    • they have had no problems in the past with other HIV medicines that have stopped working, and they have no resistance to the three antiviral medicines in Biktarvy including bictegravir sodium, emtricitabine, and tenofovir alafenamide fumarate.

When specific antiviral medicines are used in conjunction with safe sex practices to prevent HIV infection, it is called Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).  Biktarvy is NOT used as PrEP.  

What does HIV do to the body?

HIV is complicated in how and where it affects the body, but a simple version of what it does is:

  • HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a retrovirus which specifically attacks the CD4 T cells in the immune system.
  • When first infected with HIV you may not have any symptoms, but after 2 to 4 weeks people often get vague influenza, or non specific symptoms that last only a few weeks.
  • Over time if HIV is not treated the HIV virus can become high, which means the CD4 T cells levels become low.  As CD4 T cells are part of the immune system, it is harder for the body to fight infections and illness. 
  • You become more likely to get bacterial, fungal, viral and parasite infections and cancers that are related to viral infections.  This stage of HIV infection may be called AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome)
  • Most people treated for HIV do not progress to AIDS.

What does Biktarvy do?

Biktarvy contains three antiretroviral medicines (emtricitabine, tenofovir alafenamide, bictegravir) that work together to treat HIV infection by:

  • Reducing the number of HIV viruses in the blood to an undetectable level (which is less than 50 copies /mL), this means you are less likely to pass HIV to another person.
  • With less viruses in the body the CD4 T-cell count increases, so that the immune system is more able to fight infection and illness, which keeps you well.
  • HIV virus can evolve and change so that HIV medicine no longer works on it, the virus becomes drug resistant.  By taking Biktarvy regularly and keeping viral numbers low, it means that there is a smaller chance of the HIV virus becoming drug resistant.

Bottom line

Biktarvy is used for HIV-1 treatment in patients who weigh over 25 kg (55lb) and 

  • who have never taken antiretroviral, or
  • who are currently stablised on HIV medicines and with no past problems or resistance to other HIV medicines

Biktarvy is not used as PrEP to prevent HIV in at risk people.

References
  • https://www.drugs.com/biktarvy.html
  • https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24717910/
  • https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr6303a1.htm?s_cid=rr6303a1_e

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