Introduction

Complera and Atripla are one-pill combination drugs that help manage HIV. They’re both antiretroviral medications.

These medications contain drugs that work in similar ways, but the differences between these medications might help someone choose between the two. This comparison highlights the key similarities and differences between these two drugs.

Complera vs. Atripla

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

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 the T cells to make copies of itself.

Complera and Atripla both contain the NRTIs emtricitabine and tenofovir disoproxil fumarate. However, Complera also contains the NNRTI rilpivirine, while Atripla contains the NNRTI efavirenz.

Side-by-side comparisons

The table below compares key features of Complera and Atripla.

CompleraAtripla
What are the drug strengths in each pill?300 milligrams (mg) tenofovir disoproxil fumurate, 200 mg emtricitabine, 25 mg rilpivirine300 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 and who have a viral load* of less than or equal to 100,000 copies and a CD4 count of 200 cells/mm3 or higher; or people who have taken another HIV drug and have a viral load of less than 50 copiespeople 12 years or older who have never used an HIV drug
Can it be used with other HIV drugs?used on its own as a complete treatment regimen for HIVcan be used on its own or with other HIV drugs
How often do I have to take it?once per dayonce per day
Do I take it with food or water?taken with food taken 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

Complera and Atripla contain similar drugs and therefore cause similar side effects. The shared side effects of these drugs include:

  • dizziness
  • headache
  • trouble sleeping
  • mood changes
  • unusual dreams
  • 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 the face, arms, and legs to the abdomen and upper back

However, some evidence shows that some people can tolerate Complera better than Atripla due to fewer side effects such as diarrhea and pain.

It’s also important to note that in rare cases, both Complera and Atripla can cause serious side effects. These can include:

  • lactic acidosis (lactic acid buildup in the blood)
  • liver problems
  • kidney problems
  • bone problems

A healthcare provider or pharmacist can provide more information on side effects for either drug.

Interactions

Atripla and Complera can interact with other medications. However, more medications are likely to interact with Atripla than with Complera. This is because Atripla contains the drug efavirenz, which can interact with many other drugs. A healthcare provider or pharmacist can provide more information about interactions for a specific person based on the medications or supplements they take.

For both Atripla and Complera, it’s important for people with hepatitis B not to take the hepatitis B drug adefovir dipivoxil (Hepsera) with either drug. All three of these drugs work against hepatitis B, but taking them together can increase the risk of kidney problems.

How they stack up

Atripla and Complera are similar but have some key differences, such as who they’re prescribed for and what side effects they can cause.

Both drugs treat HIV in adults and children aged 12 years and older. However, Complera is for people who:

  • have never taken an HIV medication before,
  • have less than or equal to 100,000 copies/mL of virus in their blood, and
  • have a CD4 count of 200 cells/mm3 or higher.

Complera is also for people who have taken another HIV drug and have a viral load of less than 50 copies.

The side effects of each medication are also an important factor. These drugs cause mostly similar side effects, but Complera may be a better option for someone if they have too many side effects from Atripla. One other consideration is that if a person is allergic to the ingredients of one of these drugs, their healthcare provider may recommend the other.

Someone trying to decide between these two drugs should talk to their healthcare provider. A healthcare provider can help determine which medication would be most effective and the best fit.