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What is Lamivudine (Epivir) Used For? Side Effects and Dosage

What is Lamivudine (Epivir) Used For? Side Effects & Dosage  

What is Lamivudine (Epivir)?

Lamivudine is an antiretroviral drug that is sold under the brand name Epivir. It is a nucleoside analogue drug, otherwise known as a ‘nuke’, and is also known by the name 3TC. It is manufactured in the United States by ViiV Healthcare. 

What is Epivir Used For?

Lamivudine medication is used to treat HIV. It is always used in combination with other antiretroviral drugs and, while it cannot cure HIV, it slows down the production of HIV. The drug works by interfering with the enzyme reverse transcriptase (RT) that helps HIV-infected cells produce more of the virus. By inhibiting RT, HIV-infected cells create less HIV. 

A formulation of 100 mg Lamivudine is also available as a treatment for chronic hepatitis B infection. In the United States, this formulation is sold as Heptovir and is not interchangeable with Epivir.

How to Take 3TC

Patients who take 3TC will also be prescribed other antiretroviral drugs, usually those from different classes. When taken together, these combinations are known as antiretroviral therapy, or ART. The other classes of drugs that are typically prescribed with 3TC include protease inhibitors and/or non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (‘non-nukes’).

Lamivudine comes in an oral tablet and is taken in combination with the other drugs, with or without food.

Lamivudine Side Effects

While there are some side effects associated with Lamivudine, it is known as one of the easiest antiretroviral drugs to take. It is the most well-tolerated and causes less severe side effects than other antiretrovirals.  

Common Side Effects

  • Headaches
  • Malaise
  • Tiredness
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Coughing

Severe Side Effects

  • Lactic acidosis (symptoms include feeling very weak or tired, trouble breathing, feeling cold, especially in the arms and legs, fast or irregular heartbeat)
  • Severe liver problems (symptoms include yellowing of the skin and eyes, dark-colored urine, nausea, loss of appetite, light-colored bowel movements)
  • Pancreatitis (severe stomach pain, nausea, vomiting)

3TC Dosage

There are 150 mg and 300 mg tablets available, as well as a 10 mg/mL oral solution. For adults, the standard dose is either 150 mg twice daily or 300 mg once daily.

Though 3TC is often taken in combination with other drugs, it is important to discuss with a pharmacist or doctor if you are taking any other prescription or non-prescription medications. While no significant drug interactions are reported with 3TC, use should be closely monitored in patients with renal impairment who are taking the antibiotic co-trimoxazole.

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