Truvada is a type of drug that helps reduce the risk of HIV infection, which is called pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). It blocks an enzyme that the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) needs to copy itself inside your body.
When you take Truvada every day, it can lessen the chance that you’ll get HIV from sex by about 99%, and from injecting drugs by about 74%. The one downside to Truvada is that it's very expensive for people who don't have health insurance.
How much does a Truvada prescription cost?
A month’s supply of Truvada is nearly $2,000 without insurance. Most private health insurance companies, Medicare, and Medicaid will cover the cost. But private insurers may charge high copayments -- the amount you have to pay out of pocket for the drug.
In 2019, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force -- a panel of disease prevention experts -- recommended that doctors prescribe PrEP for anyone at high risk for HIV. That includes men who have sex with men, straight people who might catch HIV through sex, and people who inject drugs.
Because of this decision, most health insurance plans will be required to cover Truvada and the other PrEP drug, Descovy. If you're in an at-risk group, you shouldn't have to pay anything out of pocket. In the meantime, assistance programs could help you cover the cost of PrEP if you qualify for them.
What assistance programs can help?
Here are some of the programs that will cover some or all the cost of Truvada:
Advancing Access Medication Assistance Program
Who sponsors it: Gilead, the maker of Truvada
What it covers: Out-of-pocket costs for Truvada, up to $7,200 per year. It doesn't cover the costs of doctor visits or lab tests.
Ready, Set, PrEP
Who sponsors it: The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and Gilead, which donates 2.4 million bottles of Truvada and Descovy to the program each year
What it covers: The cost of Truvada
Who is eligible: People who don't have prescription drug coverage, have tested negative for HIV, and have a prescription for Truvada
Co-Pay Relief Program
Who sponsors it: The Patient Advocate Foundation, a nonprofit organization that helps people with chronic or life-threatening diseases
What it covers: Out-of-pocket costs for Truvada, up to $7,500 per year. It doesn't cover the costs of doctor visits or lab tests.
Who is eligible: People who don't have health insurance, or whose insurance plan doesn't cover Truvada. Your income must be below 400% of the current federal poverty level.
Who sponsors it: Good Days, a nonprofit organization that offers resources for people who don't have access to health care
What it covers: Out-of-pocket costs for Truvada, up to $7,500 per year
Who is eligible: People with Medicare or military insurance coverage whose income level is at or below 500% of the current federal poverty level
A few states have their own drug assistance programs that cover out-of-pocket expenses for PrEP. Some will also cover the costs of doctor visits and lab tests. Requirements to qualify for these programs differ by state.
States with PrEP assistance programs are:
- District of Columbia
- New York state
- Washington state
To learn about these programs, contact your state's department of public health.
Is there a generic version?
Generic drugs work the same way as the brand-name versions. The difference is that generics usually cost less.
Right now, no generic drug is available for PrEP, but one should be soon. How much it will cost, and whether it will be cheaper than the brand-name version, is still unknown.