Docs wary of prescribing Gilead's Truvada for prevention

The promising sizzle of the world's first HIV prevention pill has turned to fizzle. Doctors just aren't prescribing Gilead Sciences' Truvada for preventive use, at least not at the rate some predicted. As Bloomberg reports, physicians say they're reluctant to treat healthy people with a drug that not only costs $12,000 per year, but also has potential side effects, some of them serious.

Truvada leaped into the spotlight late last year, when a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that healthy men who took the drug regularly were 92 percent less likely to contract HIV than patients who received a placebo or who took the drug only irregularly. Gilead plans to ask FDA soon to approve Truvada as a preventive.

As Bloomberg reports, Truvada brought in $2.6 billion last year, and analysts predicted that preventive use could add $1 billion to that number. But so far, scrips have increased to a range of 6,805 to 8,107 per week, from 5,819 to 7,698, or between five percent and 16 percent. There's no way to know how much of that increase can be traced to preventive use. One analyst called future uptake for prevention "a giant question mark."

Still, Gilead doesn't yet have the right to market Truvada as a preventive drug, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have only begun to discuss how preventive use should be handled. That question mark could disappear when more questions about the prevention approach have been answered.

- read the Bloomberg coverage