GENERIC NAME: abacavir
BRAND NAME: Ziagen
DRUG CLASS AND MECHANISM: Abacavir is an oral medication that is used for the treatment of infections with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). It is in a class of drugs called reverse transcriptase inhibitors which also includes zalcitabine (Hivid), zidovudine (Retrovir), didanosine (Videx), lamivudine (Epivir), emtricitabine (Emtriva), and stavudine (Zerit). During infection with HIV, the HIV virus multiplies within the body's cells. The newly-formed viruses then are released from the cells and spread throughout the body where they infect other cells. In this manner, the infection continually spreads to new, uninfected cells that the body is continually producing, and HIV infection is perpetuated. When producing new viruses, the HIV virus must manufacture new DNA for each virus. Reverse transcriptase is the enzyme that the virus uses to form this new DNA. Specifically, abacavir is converted within the body to its active form (carbovir triphosphate). This active form is similar to a compound (deoxyguanosine triphosphate), a chemical that is required by the HIV virus to make new DNA. The reverse transcriptase uses carbovir triphosphate instead of deoxyguanosine triphosphate for making DNA, and it is the carbovir triphosphate that interferes with the reverse transcriptase. Abacavir does not kill existing HIV virus, and it is not a cure for HIV. The FDA approved abacavir in December 1998.
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