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CDC to recommend antibiotic pill to prevent STDs

The recommendation says 200 milligrams of doxycycline must be taken within 72 hours of sexual intercourse in order to be effective.
CDC to recommend antibiotic pill to prevent STDs
Posted at 1:09 PM, Oct 02, 2023

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is poised to recommend an antibiotic pill that can be taken after sexual intercourse to prevent sexually transmitted diseases. 

The agency published a draft recommendation, saying 200 milligrams of doxycycline, also known as Doxy-PEP, should be considered for gay and bisexual men, as well as transgender women, who may be at risk of gonorrhea, chlamydia or syphilis. 

The pill must be taken within 72 hours of intercourse, the recommendation states.

Traditionally, most people only get treated for sexually transmitted infections after they notice symptoms, but this new method gets out ahead of a potential infection so the body can prevent it from occurring. In medical terms, it's known as post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP).

The CDC notes that while the medication will likely work on other populations, including heterosexual men and cisgender women, data to support it is limited. 

SEE MORE: Drug shows promise in preventing sexually transmitted infections

The U.S. is in the midst of an epidemic of sexually transmitted infections. More than 2.5 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis were reported between 2020 and 2021, which is the most recent data point

"It's going to take game-changing innovations for us to turn the STI epidemic around," Dr. Jonathan Mermin, head of the CDC's National Center for HIV, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, told CBS News. "And Doxy-PEP is the first major new prevention intervention we have for STIs in decades."

Doxy-PEP doesn't come without risks. Health officials have cautioned that it could potentially lead to bacteria becoming resistant to the antibiotic. Mermin told CBS News that it's something the CDC will be monitoring as the drug becomes more widely available. 

"Given the gaps in science, long-term monitoring, evaluation and additional studies will be key for us to update the guidelines as needed. There are important questions that remain regarding potential risks," he said.

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