GENERIC NAME: lamivudine
BRAND NAME: Epivir, Epivir HBV
DRUG CLASS AND MECHANISM: Lamivudine is an oral medication that is used for the treatment of infections with the human immunodeficiency (HIV) and hepatitis B viruses. It is in a class of drugs called reverse transcriptase inhibitors which also includes zalcitabine (Hivid), zidovudine (Retrovir), didanosine (Videx), emtricitabine (Emtriva), and stavudine (Zerit). During infection with HIV, the HIV virus multiplies within the body's cells. The viruses then are released from the cells and spread throughout the body where they infect other cells. In this manner, HIV infection 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 virus' enzyme that forms this new DNA. Lamivudine first is converted within the body to its active form, lamivudine triphosphate. This active form is similar to a chemical, deoxycytidine triphosphate, that is used by reverse transcriptase to make new DNA. The reverse transcriptase uses lamivudine triphosphate instead of deoxycytidine triphosphate, and the lamivudine triphosphate interferes with the reverse transcriptase. Lamivudine does not kill existing HIV virus, and it is not a cure for HIV. Lamivudine was approved by the FDA in 1995.
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