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- What is abacavir, and how does it work (mechanism of action)?
- What are the uses for abacavir?
- What are the side effects of abacavir?
- What is the dosage for abacavir?
- Which drugs or supplements interact with abacavir?
- Is abacavir safe to take if I'm pregnant or breastfeeding?
- What else should I know about abacavir?
What is abacavir, and how does it work (mechanism of action)?
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.
What brand names are available for abacavir?
Is abacavir available as a generic drug?
GENERIC AVAILABLE: No
Do I need a prescription for abacavir?
What are the side effects of abacavir?
The most common side effects are:
- allergic reactions,
- loss of appetite,
- difficulty sleeping,
- muscle pain,
- increased triglyceride levels,
- depression, and
The most serious side effects are severe allergic reactions, pancreatitis, liver failure, and metabolic disturbance (lactic acidosis). Symptoms of an allergic reaction include skin rash, fever, weakness, swelling and difficulty breathing. Abacavir must be stopped as soon an allergic reaction is suspected, and it should not be restarted after an allergic reaction.
What is the dosage for abacavir?
The recommended dose for adults is 300 mg twice daily or 600 mg once daily. Children (3 months and older) should receive 8 mg/kg twice daily of the solution, and the maximum recommended dose is 300 mg twice daily. Pediatric patients weighing 14 kg or more may also be treated with abacavir tablets at doses of 300, 450, or 600 mg daily based on weight. Abacavir may be administered with or without food since food does not affect its absorption.
Which drugs or supplements interact with abacavir?
Alcohol competes with abacavir for elimination from the body. Therefore, alcohol consumption may increase the concentration of abacavir in the body, and this could lead to increased frequency or severity of side effects from abacavir. Abacavir does not affect the elimination of alcohol.
Is abacavir safe to take if I'm pregnant or breastfeeding?
Use of abacavir during pregnancy has not been adequately evaluated.
It is not known whether abacavir is excreted in breast milk. HIV infected mothers should not breast feed because of the potential risk of transmitting HIV to an infant that is not infected.
What else should I know about abacavir?
What preparations of abacavir are available?
Tablets: 300 mg; oral solution: 20 mg/ml
How should I keep abacavir stored?
Capsules and solution should be stored at room temperature, 15C to 30 C (59 F to 86F). The oral solution may be refrigerated but should not be frozen.
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Abacavir (Ziagen) is a drug prescribed in combination with other anti-HIV drugs to treat HIV infection. Review side effects, drug interactions, dosage, and pregnancy safety information prior to taking this medication.
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Related Disease Conditions
AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome)
AIDS is the advanced stage of HIV infection. Symptoms and signs of AIDS include pneumonia due to Pneumocystis jiroveci, tuberculosis, toxoplasmosis, seizures, weakness, meningitis, yeast infection of the esophagus, and Kaposi's sarcoma. Anti-retroviral therapy (HAART) is used in the treatment of AIDS.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) infection left untreated causes AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a type of virus called a retrovirus, which can infect humans when it comes in contact with tissues that line the vagina, anal area, mouth, or eyes, or through a break in the skin. HIV infection is generally a slowly progressive disease in which the virus is present throughout the body at all stages of the disease. Three stages of HIV infection have been described. The initial stage of infection (primary infection), which occurs within weeks of acquiring the virus, often is characterized by the flu- or mono-like illness that generally resolves within weeks. The stage of chronic asymptomatic infection (meaning a long duration of infection without symptoms) lasts an average of eight to 10 years without treatment. The stage of symptomatic infection, in which the body's immune (or defense) system has been suppressed and complications have developed, is called the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). The symptoms are caused by the complications of AIDS, which include one or more unusual infections or cancers, severe loss of weight, and intellectual deterioration (called dementia). When HIV grows (that is, by reproducing itself), it acquires the ability to change (mutate) its own structure. These mutations enable the virus to become resistant to previously effective drug therapy. The goals of drug therapy are to prevent damage to the immune system by the HIV virus and to halt or delay the progress of the infection to symptomatic disease. Therapy for HIV includes combinations of drugs that decrease the growth of the virus to such an extent that the treatment prevents or markedly delays the development of viral resistance to the drugs. The best combination of drugs for HIV are those that effectively suppress viral replication in the blood and also are well tolerated and simple to take so that people can take the medications consistently without missing doses.
Treatment & Diagnosis
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Medications & Supplements
- Drugs: Questions to Ask Your Doctor or Pharmacist about Your Drugs
- Drug Interactions
- Retrovir (zidovudine, ZDV, formerly called AZT)
- What Are NRTIs in Antiretroviral Therapy For HIV Infection?
- didanosine (Videx, Videx EC)
- lamivudine (3tc) (Epivir; Epivir HBV)
- Triumeq (abacavir, dolutegravir, and lamivudine)
- stavudine (Zerit)
- abacavir, lamivudine, zidovudine (Trizivir)
- Combivir (lamivudine and zidovudine)
- Epzicom (abacavir sulfate and lamivudine)
Prevention & Wellness
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Report Problems to the Food and Drug Administration
You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.