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Complera vs. Atripla: Comparing HIV Treatments


Complera and Atripla are both one-pill
combination drugs that help manage HIV. The medications contain drugs that work
in similar ways, but their differences, such as unique side effects, might be
determining factors in choosing between the two. If either of these two drugs
are options for you, take a look at this comparison to understand your

Complera vs. Atripla

Both Complera and Atripla
work to prevent HIV from making copies of itself. This helps lower the amount
of HIV in your body. Both of these drugs can also help increase your number of CD4
cells, which are also called T-cells. Your T-cells help you fight infection and
disease. HIV attacks and kills your T-cells. Having too few T-cells makes it
hard, if not impossible, for your body to fight and recover from infections and

Complera and Atripla are
both pills that combine three different drugs: two nucleoside reverse
transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs) and one non-nucleoside transcriptase inhibitor
(NNRTI). NRTIs and NNRTIs both block HIV from using the enzyme reverse transcriptase
to take over your T-cells to make copies of itself.

These medications both
contain the NRTIs emtricitabine and tenofovir
disoproxil fumarate. However, Complera uses
the NNRTI rilpivirine, while Atripla uses the NNRTI efavirenz.

You Asked, We Answered

  • Would one of these drugs ever be a better option than the other?
  • Complera may be an option for you if you take Atripla and the side effects from efavirenz cause you too many problems.

    – Healthline Medical Team

by side comparisons

The table below compares
features of these drugs.

  Complera Atripla
What are the drug strengths in each pill? 300 mg tenofovir disoproxil fumurate, 200 mg emtricitabine, 25 mg rilpivirine 300 mg tenofovir disoproxil fumurate, 200 mg emtricitabine, 600 mg efavirenz
Who is it usually prescribed for? people 12 years or older who have never used an HIV drug, have a viral load* of less than 100,000 copies, or have taken another HIV drug and have a viral load of less than 50 copies people 12 years or older who have never used an HIV drug
Can it be used with other drugs? no can be used on its own or with other HIV drugs
How often do I have to take it? once per day once per day
Do I take it with food or water? take with food take with water on an empty stomach


*A viral load is the number of copies of the HIV virus
in 1 mL of blood.

Side effects

Both Complera and Atripla come
with many possible side effects. Some are similar, and some are unique to each

The shared side
effects of both drugs include:

  • diarrhea
  • skin discoloration, such as
    small spots or freckles
  • nausea or vomiting
  • mild rash
  • hives, trouble breathing,
    or other symptoms of an allergic reaction
  • lipodystrophy, which is the redistribution of
    fat from areas like your face, arms, and legs to your abdomen and upper back

The side
effects in the following table may occur in both Complera and Atripla but
may be more common in one drug than the other.

More common in Complera More common in Atripla
dizziness bone pain, softening, or thinning
headache new or worsening kidney problems
sleeping trouble psychiatric problems, including delusions, paranoia, aggressive behavior, or thoughts of suicide
mood changes, including depression severe, blistering rash*
stomach pain or discomfort  
unusual dreams  

you experience a severe rash, call your doctor immediately.

Atripla and Complera can both
cause lactic acidosis (lactic acid buildup in your blood) and liver problems.
The symptoms of lactic acidosis are generally severe and come on quickly. They

  • breathing difficulties
  • stomach pain with vomiting
    and nausea
  • tiredness or weakness
  • lightheadedness or
  • irregular or fast heartbeat
  • abnormal muscle pain
  • feeling cold, especially in your legs and arms

Symptoms of liver
problems include:

  • nausea
  • abdominal pain
  • pale bowel movements
  • jaundice (yellowing of your
    skin or the whites of your eyes)
  • appetite loss for a few
    days or more
  • dark urine
  • fatigue

Contact your doctor
immediately if you have symptoms of lactic acidosis or liver problems.


Atripla and Complera can interact
with other medications. However, more medications are likely to interact with
Complera than with Atripla. For more information about these interactions, take
a look at Healthline’s information on interactions
with Complera and interactions
with Atripla.

Also, if you’re taking Atripla and have
hepatitis B, it’s important not to take the hepatitis B drug adefovir dipivoxil
(Hepsera). Both drugs increase your risk of kidney problems.

How they
stack up

Atripla and Complera are
geared toward two different types of HIV patients. They both treat HIV
infection in adults and children aged 12 years and older. However, Complera is
only for these people who’ve also never taken an HIV medicine and who have less
than 100,000 copies/mL of virus in their blood.

If you’re allergic to the
ingredients of one medication, your doctor may recommend the other. You may
also want to consider the side effects of each before making your decision. Talk
to your doctor to help you determine which medication will be most effective
and most appropriate for you.

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