Conference Coverage

Shared decision-making aids choice of PrEP



A patient-centered approach can help guide persons at risk for HIV exposure to decide on the best choice of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) regimens for them, stifling the noise generated by direct-to-consumer advertising, an infectious disease specialist recommends.

The decision for patients whether to start or remain on the PrEP combination of tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF) plus emtricitabine (FTC; Truvada and generic) or on tenofovir alafenamide (TAF) plus FTC (Descovy) is made more fraught by confusion regarding the use of the newer and allegedly safer TAF prodrug of tenofovir in HIV treatment regimens, said Oni Blackstock, MD, founder and executive director of Health Justice and an attending physician in the division of infectious diseases at Harlem Hospital, New York.

“There have been commercials on TV as well as on social media around class-action lawsuits against [Truvada maker] Gilead,” she said in an online presentation during IDWeek 2020, an annual scientific meeting on infectious diseases, held virtually this year.

“These lawsuits focus on TDF for HIV treatment, but they have sown a great deal of confusion about TDF versus TAF for PrEP among potential and actual PrEP users,” she added.

Dr. Blackstock described her approach to shared decision-making regarding TDF/FTC versus TAF/FTC, and to helping patients understand the relative benefits and risks of each formulation.

In January of 2020, Dr. Blackstock, who was then assistant commissioner of the HIV bureau of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, issued with other Bureau members a “Dear colleague” letter stating why they believed that TDF/FTC should remain the first-line regimen for PrEP.

That opinion, she said, was bolstered by an editorial published in February 2020 by Douglas E. Krakower, MD, from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, and colleagues, which questioned the rush to shift from TDF to TAF in HIV treatment, and cautioned against the same approach to PrEP.

“Despite evidence that TAF/FTC would not be cost-effective, compared with generic TDF/FTC , the newer regimen quickly and irrevocably displaced TDF/FTC for HIV treatment in the U.S. A similar shift for PrEP – especially for populations in which TAF/FTC is untested – would be premature, costly, and counterproductive for population impact,” Krakower et al. wrote.

Shared decision-making

Clinicians can help patients who may be a candidate for either PrEP regimen by engaging them in shared decision-making.

“The clinician provides information in this case about a prevention strategy, options, benefits and risks, alternatives, and the patient provides their preferences and values, and together the clinician and patient make a decision,” Dr. Blackstock said.

The process differs from the model of informed decision-making, where the clinician gives the patient the information and the patient comes to a decision, or the old, “paternalistic” model in which the clinician gives information and makes recommendations to the patient.

“Shared decision-making has been studied extensively and has been shown to improve patient satisfaction, patient communication, and also potentially reducing health inequities that we see,” she said.

The model for shared decision-making for clinical practice includes three distinct portions: a choice talk, option talk, and decision talk.


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