Abacavir (By mouth)

Introduction

Abacavir (a-BAK-a-vir)

Treats human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. HIV causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). This medicine does not cure HIV or AIDS, but combinations of drugs may slow the progress of the disease.

Brand Name(s)

Ziagen

There may be other brand names for this medicine.

When This Medicine Should Not Be Used

You should not use this medicine if you have had an allergic reaction to abacavir, or if you have moderate or severe liver disease.

How to Use This Medicine

Liquid, Tablet

  • Your doctor will tell you how much of this medicine to use and how often. Do not use more medicine or use it more often than your doctor tells you to.
  • This medicine should come with a Medication Guide. Read and follow these instructions carefully. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions. Ask your pharmacist for the Medication Guide if you do not have one.
  • Abacavir is taken with other medicines to treat HIV infection. Take all other medicines your doctor has prescribed as part of your combination treatment.
  • Do not allow yourself to run out of this medicine.
  • You may take this medicine with or without food.
  • Measure the oral liquid medicine with a marked measuring spoon, oral syringe, or medicine cup.

If a dose is missed:

  • If you miss a dose or forget to use your medicine, use it as soon as you can. If it is almost time for your next dose, wait until then to use the medicine and skip the missed dose. Do not use extra medicine to make up for a missed dose.

How to Store and Dispose of This Medicine

  • Store the medicine in a closed container at room temperature, away from heat, moisture, and direct light. You may also store the oral liquid in the refrigerator, but do not freeze it.
  • Ask your pharmacist, doctor, or health caregiver about the best way to dispose of any outdated medicine or medicine no longer needed.
  • Keep all medicine away from children and never share your medicine with anyone.

Drugs and Foods to Avoid

Ask your doctor or pharmacist before using any other medicine, including over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products.

  • Make sure your doctor knows if you are using methadone (Dolophine®) or other medicines to treat HIV or AIDS (such as Epzicom?, Trizivir®).
  • Do not drink alcohol while you are using this medicine.

Warnings While Using This Medicine

  • Make sure your doctor knows if you are pregnant, or if you have a genetic condition (such as a gene variation called HLA-B*5701), heart problems, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or if you smoke.
  • You should not breastfeed if you have HIV or AIDS, because you might give the infection to your baby through your breast milk.
  • Stop taking this medicine and call your doctor right away if you have 2 or more of the following groups of symptoms. These may be signs of a life-threatening allergic reaction to the medicine:
    • Fever.
    • Rash.
    • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or stomach pain.
    • Severe tiredness, aching, or general ill feeling.
    • Sore throat, shortness of breath, or cough.
  • Ask your pharmacist for a Warning Card listing the symptoms of an allergic reaction. Carry the card with you at all times.
  • Do not stop using this medicine unless your doctor tells you to do so. If you stop using this medicine for any reason, do not start taking it again without talking first to your doctor.
  • If you must stop using abacavir because of an allergic reaction, you should never use the medicine again. A worse reaction, possibly even death, can occur if you use the medicine again. Return the unused medicine to your doctor or pharmacist.
  • When you start taking HIV medicines, your immune system may get stronger. If you or your child have infections that are hidden in your body, such as pneumonia, herpes virus, or tuberculosis, you may notice new symptoms when your body tries to fight them. If this occurs, be sure to tell your doctor.
  • Two rare but serious reactions to this medicine are lactic acidosis (too much acid in the blood) and liver toxicity, which includes an enlarged liver. These are more common if you are female, very overweight (obese), or have been taking anti-HIV medicines for a long time. Call your doctor right away if you or your child have more than one of these symptoms: stomach discomfort or cramping; dark urine; decreased appetite; diarrhea; general feeling of discomfort; light-colored stools; muscle cramping or pain; nausea; unusual tiredness or weakness; trouble breathing; vomiting; or yellow eyes or skin.
  • This medicine may cause you to have excess body fat. Tell your doctor if you or your child notice changes in your body shape, such as an increased amount of fat in the upper back and neck, or around the chest and stomach area. You might also lose fat from the legs, arms, and face.
  • This medicine may increase your risk of having a heart attack. This is more likely to occur if you smoke or already have heart disease, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol or fats in the blood. Call your doctor right away if you have chest pain or discomfort; nausea; pain or discomfort in the arms, jaw, back or neck; shortness of breath; sweating; or vomiting. These could be symptoms of a heart attack.
  • This medicine will not keep you from giving HIV to your partner during sex. Make sure you understand and practice safe sex, even if your partner also has HIV. Do not share needles with anyone.
  • Your doctor will need to check your blood at regular visits while you are using this medicine. Be sure to keep all appointments.

Possible Side Effects While Using This Medicine

Call your doctor right away if you notice any of these side effects:

  • Allergic reaction: Itching or hives, swelling in your face or hands, swelling or tingling in your mouth or throat, chest tightness, trouble breathing
  • Blistering, peeling, or red skin rash.
  • Change in how much or how often you urinate.
  • Dark-colored urine or pale stools.
  • Extreme weakness, tiredness, or confusion.
  • Fever, chills, cough, runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, and body aches.
  • Lightheadedness, dizziness, or fainting.
  • Rapid breathing or trouble breathing.
  • Rapid weight gain.
  • Sudden and severe stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
  • Swelling in your hands, ankles, or feet.
  • Unusual bleeding or bruising.
  • Yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes.

If you notice these less serious side effects, talk with your doctor:

  • Depression or anxiety.
  • Ear pain or discharge.
  • Gaining weight around your neck, upper back, breast, face, or waist.
  • Headache.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Mild nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or stomach pain.
  • Muscle pain or tenderness.
  • Skin rash.
  • Sores in your mouth.
  • Tiredness.
  • Trouble sleeping or abnormal dreams.

If you notice other side effects that you think are caused by this medicine, tell your doctor

Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088

Version Info

  • Last Reviewed on 06/12/2013

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This page was last updated: June 18, 2013

         
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