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What is Abacavir/Lamivudine Used For? Side Effects and Dosage

What is Abacavir/Lamivudine Used For? Side Effects and Dosage

What is Abacavir/Lamivudine?

Abacavir/lamivudine, hereafter referred to by the trade name Epzicom but also known by the trade name Kivexa, is a medication used in the treatment of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the virus responsible for the development of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) in the human body.

Epzicom is a fixed-dose combination medication, with each tablet containing the active ingredients abacavir and lamivudine, both of which are antiretroviral medications of the class titled nucleoside reverse-transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs). NRTIs are named for their ability to inhibit viral DNA creation by blocking the activity of reverse-transcriptase, an enzyme involved in the production of viral DNA from ribonucleic acid.

Epzicom was introduced to the market in 2004 and is marketed by HIV pharmaceutical company ViiV Healthcare. It is currently listed as being among the World Health Organization’s essential medicines due to its safety and efficacy in the treatment of HIV.

What is Epzicom Used For?

Epzicom is used in the treatment of individuals with HIV Type 1 (HIV-1), the more common and infectious type of the virus. As mentioned, it is a combination medication; each tablet contains 600 mg of abacavir and 300 mg of lamivudine, which work synergistically to prevent the infection from progressing to later stages. The first of these, abacavir (trade named Ziagen), is an analogue (a similarly structured molecule) of guanosine, a chemical used in the process of DNA creation. As such, it becomes phosphorylated (bound to phosphorus and oxygen atoms) and is then attached to the end of a DNA molecule, terminating the molecular chain and preventing viral genetic material from further replicating itself in the form of viral DNA. The second active ingredient, lamivudine (trade named Epivir), interferes with the same phosphorylation process but works as an analogue of cytidine, a different molecule used in DNA creation. The combination of both ingredients proves to be effective at avoiding possible viral mutations that may adapt to the treatment. Epzicom tablets are intended to be combined with other antiretroviral medications.

How to Take Kivexa

Epzicom (Kivexa) is available in tablet form, with each tablet containing both active ingredients. Tablets should not be broken, chewed, or crushed, and may be taken with or without food. It is currently unclear if there are significant interactions between grapefruit juice and Epzicom; as such, it is advised that patients avoid products containing grapefruit juice as a precautionary measure. Tablets should not be taken after the expiration date shown on their packaging.

Epzicom Side Effects

Various side effects associated with other HIV medications have been observed in patients taking Epzicom. Prior to taking Epzicom, patients should consult with their health care provider regarding other medications being taken, as these may interact and increase the risk of adverse effects.

The following side effects are common and often manageable:

  • nausea
  • headaches
  • diarrhea
  • dizziness
  • fatigue
  • changes in body fat shape and location
  • insomnia
  • changes in dreaming

The following side effects occur less often, but may require urgent care:

  • psychological symptoms, such as depression, anxiety or suicidality
  • changes in vision
  • numbness in hands or feet
  • weakness
  • muscle pain
  • fever
  • yellowing of skin, nails, or eyes
  • discoloration of urine or stool

It should be noted that studies designed to test the safety of Epzicom use during pregnancy were inconclusive; as such, pregnant women are advised to avoid this medication.

Dosage

In adults and children weighing over 25 kg (55 lbs), the standard recommended dose of Epzicom is one tablet, once daily. Patients weighing less than 25 kg are advised against taking Epzicom. In patients who have hepatic impairment (liver dysfunction), lower than normal creatinine clearance (a measure of kidney health), or who have difficulty swallowing tablets, separate liquid formulations of each active ingredient, abacavir and lamivudine, may be prescribed.

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