HIV medications containing Tenofovir Disoproxil Fumarate – such as Viread, Truvada, Atripla, Complera, and Stribild – promised HIV-infected patients longer, healthier lives and those without the disease a way of preventing it. However, a number of lawsuits suggest that manufacturer Gilead put profits ahead of patients by suppressing safer TAF drugs from the market and failing to warn of known risks like bone loss and kidney disease.


Studies Find Link Between HIV Drugs and Kidney Disease


The kidneys are responsible for filtering impurities out of the blood and reabsorbing useful components like minerals, amino acids, or sugars. The drug Tenofovir Disoproxil Fumarate is ultimately excreted by the kidneys, but over time, it can damage the delicate kidney tubules. Minor declines in filtration and reabsorption capabilities can fall under the radar, but more serious tubule damage can lead to serious side effects, including disruption of the body’s pH balance and bone loss.


Recent research has linked HIV medications and kidney disease:


  • One 11-year study found that men with HIV lost twice as much kidney function as men without HIV. Prolonged treatment with TDF increased the risk of more rapid reduction in kidney function within the first year.
  • Research presented at this year’s Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections showed that using HIV medication for PrEP can impair kidney function in some people. Truvada users saw an average 2.5% decline in creatinine clearance over 18 months. It took these patients taking the highest dosage of Tenofovir 5.6% more time to filter the blood.
  • In an analysis of more than 500 study participants, Albert Liu MD from the San Francisco Department of Health found that the kidney’s ability to quickly filter the blood diminished by 2.8% by week 12. Eleven people saw creatinine clearance fall by greater than 10 percent.
  • Kenneth Mugwanya from the University of Washington found evidence of serious kidney damage in over 1,500 participants in the Partners PrEP trial.


Types of HIV Drugs and Kidney Problems


HIV medications and kidney problems are particular to combination drugs containing Tenofovir Disoproxil Fumarate. HIV drug manufacturer Gilead has been accused of suppressing a new formula (Tenofovir Alafenamide / TAF), which did not carry the same toxicity risks. Though they were aware of TDF’s adverse effects as early as 2001, when their own internal studies suggested the drug was “highly toxic” and resulted in “possible fatal damage to the kidneys and bones,” they ceased TAF research after “an internal business review” and only began exploring its release after their original patents expired in 2010.


If you are taking a drug like Truvada and kidney problems surface, symptoms may include:


  • Chronic fatigue
  • Diminished appetite and weight loss
  • Frequent urination
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sleeping problems
  • Swollen feet or ankles


Often, people with early-stage kidney failure do not experience any symptoms at all. Most cases are identified after a urine test and follow-up ultrasounds.


Once the damage is severe enough that the kidneys are no longer functioning well, symptoms may include:


  • Bedwetting
  • Blood in the urine
  • Heart arrhythmias
  • Pain in the lower back or the side
  • Painful urination, and
  • Paralyzed muscles.


Medical complications arising from diminished kidney function include:


  • Anemia – as hormones produced by the kidneys decrease, lowering red blood cell production
  • Edema – as the kidneys are unable to excrete excess fluids from the tissues
  • Heart disease – as too much renin is released, leading to high blood pressure
  • Hyperkalemia – as potassium builds up in the bloodstream
  • Lactic acidosis – from lactate overproduction and underutilization
  • Osteomalacia – As the bones become damaged by altered levels of phosphates in the blood
  • Polycystic Kidney Disease – as bubbles of fluid form on the kidneys and liver


Who Is at Risk for HIV Medication Kidney Failure?


Those at greatest risk for kidney failure from HIV medications include patients with:


  • Age of 50+
  • Co-infection with Hepatitis C
  • High blood pressure
  • Hypertension
  • Lower baseline kidney function
  • Smoking habit
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • West African or African American descent


For these patients, it is especially important to consider all antiretroviral drug choices. For ALL patients, monitoring kidney function on a regular basis could prevent the increased risk of dangerous side effects.


The Toll of Antiviral Drugs and Kidney Function That Is Impaired


Antiviral drugs and kidney function that becomes impaired can have a devastating toll on a person’s life. Patients can suffer from fatigue, kidney stones, muscle weakness, painful urination, and vomiting of Tubular Dysfunction. Or they may suffer from the pain, weakness, and bone fractures of Fanconi Syndrome.


Those with Acute Kidney Injury or Acute Renal Failure may require emergency medical care, while those with Chronic Kidney Disease will require dialysis or transplant in order to survive.


Over time, patients suffer an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and premature death.


Day to day living with impaired kidney function is difficult. “The pain never stops,” one kidney disease sufferer explains. “Even picking my kids up to hold them hurts and no one could understand that type of pain.” Another kidney disease patient says, “even the smallest, simplest things are hard to do, not to mention the pain and fatigue, especially the day after dialysis.” Not surprisingly with this caliber of debilitating pain, up to one-third of patients with kidney disease are diagnosable as clinically depressed.


Contact Showard Law Firm for Help With Your HIV Drugs Lawsuit


Pharmaceutical companies that failed to warn patients about the link between their HIV medications and kidney failure may be held legally liable for the harm they have caused. Showard Law Firm is available to answer any questions you may have about filing an HIV medications lawsuit. We offer complimentary consultations and contingency-based representation, so you never have to worry about paying upfront, and you never owe us any legal fees unless we recover compensation on your behalf through a settlement or jury award. A lawsuit cannot undo the pain you have suffered, but it can hold Gilead accountable for the egregious failure to warn and help you stay afloat financially while you recover.

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