Generic Name: emtricitabine, Oral capsule

Emtriva

All Brands

  • Emtriva
SECTION 1 of 4

Highlights for emtricitabine

Oral capsule
1

Emtriva is used in combination with other antiretroviral drugs to treat human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection in adults and children.

2

This drug has very few drug interactions.

3

The usual dose is one 200-mg capsule taken once per day.

4

Emtricitabine is an ingredient in many combination drugs used to treat HIV infection. If you combine emtricitabine drugs, your body may receive too much of this drug, which could cause toxic effects.

5

Rash, headache, nausea or diarrhea, and abnormal dreams are some of the most common side effects from Emtriva.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION

FDA Warning

This drug has a Black Box Warning. This is the most serious warning from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). A black box warning alerts doctors and patients to potentially dangerous effects.

Lactic acidosis: Lactic acidosis and liver enlargement are possible effects of this drug. Lactic acidosis is a serious change in the body’s chemical balance. In this condition, lactic acid builds up in the blood and the amount of oxygen drops. This can cause:

  • nausea
  • weakness
  • unusual muscle pain
  • trouble breathing
  • dizziness
  • faster heartbeat

If you experience these symptoms along with swelling or enlargement of your abdomen, see a doctor right away. Some cases of lactic acidosis have been serious or fatal. Women are at increased risk for lactic acidosis.

Hepatitis B virus infection: If you have hepatitis B virus infection and you take Emtriva and then stop taking it, your hepatitis B virus infection can become much more severe. Your healthcare provider will need to monitor your liver function very carefully if this happens.

May cause rash

It’s very common to have a rash from taking Emtriva. See a doctor or go to an emergency room right away if you experience these symptoms after taking Emtriva or if these happen suddenly:

  • severe rash
  • itching
  • hives
  • breathing problems

Drug Features

Emtriva is a prescription drug. It’s available in these forms: oral capsule, oral solution.

Emtriva is used as part of a combination therapy. It’s not a complete treatment for HIV infection on its own. You’ll need to take it with other antiretroviral drugs to treat HIV infection.

Why It's Used

Emtriva is used with other drugs to treat HIV infection. It isn’t a cure for HIV, but it helps to control it. 

How It Works

Emtriva is a nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NRTI).

More Details

How It Works

Emtriva is a nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NRTI). NRTIs work by blocking an enzyme HIV needs to make copies of itself. This slows down the progression of HIV infection.

SECTION 2 of 4

emtricitabine Side Effects

Oral capsule

Most Common Side Effects

The most common side effects that occur with Emtriva include:

  • headache

  • diarrhea

  • nausea

  • fatigue

  • dizziness

  • depression

  • insomnia

  • abnormal dreams

  • rash

  • abdominal pain

  • weakness

  • cough

  • runny nose

  • skin discoloration (in children)

Serious Side Effects

If you experience any of these serious side effects, call your doctor right away. If your symptoms are potentially life threatening, or if you think you’re experiencing a medical emergency, call 9-1-1.

  • lactic acidosis or liver enlargement. Symptoms may include:

    • nausea
    • weakness
    • swelling or enlargement of your abdomen area
  • allergic reaction. Symptoms may include:

    • rash
    • itching
    • hives
    • breathing problems
  • worsening hepatitis B virus infection. Symptoms may include:

    • fatigue
    • weakness
    • feeling like you have the flu
    • yellowing of your skin and whites of your eyes
    • dark-colored urine
    • pale bowel movements
Pharmacist's Advice
Healthline Pharmacist Editorial Team

Emtriva may cause drowsiness. You could feel dizzy and fatigued when you start taking the medication.

Most common side effects that are mild will disappear after a few weeks. Call your doctor if they don’t go away or are bothersome.

Disclaimer: Our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and current information. However, because drugs affect each person differently, we cannot guarantee that this information includes all possible side effects. This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Always discuss possible side effects with a healthcare provider who knows your medical history.
SECTION 3 of 4

emtricitabine May Interact with Other Medications

Oral capsule

Emtricitabine has very few drug interactions. In clinical studies, it was used with several other human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) medications, and it didn’t interact with them.

However, you shouldn’t take emtricitabine with any other drug that already contains it. This could lead to increased side effects. 

Medications That Might Interact with This Drug

HIV drugs, combination drugs
  • combination drugs that include emtricitabine include:
    • efavirenz/emtricitabine/tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (Atripla)
    • emtricitabine/rilpivirine/tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (Complera)
    • elvitegravir/cobicistat/emtricitabine/tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (Stribild)
    • emtricitabine/tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (Truvada)
  • drugs containing lamivudine:
    • lamivudine/zidovudine (Combivir)
    • lamivudine (generic, Epivir, or Epivir-HBV)
    • abacavir sulfate/lamivudine (Epzicom)
    • abacavir sulfate/lamivudine/zidovudine (Trizivir)

Disclaimer: Our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and current information. However, because drugs interact differently in each person, we cannot guarantee that this information includes all possible interactions. This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Always speak with your healthcare provider about possible interactions with all prescription drugs, vitamins, herbs and supplements, and over-the-counter drugs that you are taking.

People with kidney disease

If you have kidney disease, your kidneys may take longer to remove Emtriva from your body. This can lead to toxic side effects. Your doctor may check your kidney function with a blood test. If your kidneys function slowly, your doctor may adjust your dosage size or scheduling. 

Pregnant women

Emtriva is a pregnancy Category B drug. That means two things:

  1. Studies of the drug in pregnant animals have not shown any risk to the fetus.
  2. However, there haven’t been enough studies done in pregnant women to know if the drug poses a risk to the fetus.

Emtriva should only be used in pregnancy if it’s clearly needed. If you’re pregnant or plan to become pregnant, talk to your doctor before taking Emtriva.

Women who are nursing

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that women with HIV infection not breastfeed in order to avoid passing HIV through their breast milk to their babies.

Additionally, the drug may pass to the baby through breast milk. This could have negative effects on the baby.

For Seniors

Your body may process drugs more slowly. Your doctor may start you on a lowered dose to prevent too much of the drug from building up in your body. A buildup of the drug could cause toxic effects.

For Children

If you have the oral solution of Emtriva, keep it away from children. Liquid medicines are flavored, and children may try to taste them.

When to call the doctor

Call your doctor if you think you’re experiencing unexplainable:

  • fever
  • weakness
  • chills
  • night sweats
  • sore throat
  • joint pain

This may be a sign the drug isn’t working, and you may need a different treatment.

SECTION 4 of 4

How to Take emtricitabine (Dosage)

Oral capsule

All possible dosages and forms may not be included here. Your dose, form, and how often you take it will depend on:

  • your age
  • the condition being treated
  • how severe your condition is
  • other medical conditions you have
  • how you react to the first dose

What Are You Taking This Medication For?

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection

Brand: Emtriva

Form: Oral capsule
Strength: 200 mg
Form: Oral solution
Strength: 10 mg/mL
Adult Dosage (ages 18-64 years)
  • oral capsule: The dosage is 200 mg taken once per day.
  • oral solution: The dosage is 240 mg (24 mL) taken once per day.
Child Dosage (ages 0-3 months)
  • The dose is 3 mg per kilogram of bodyweight given once per day.
  • oral capsule: The capsule isn’t recommended for children who weigh less than 72.75 pounds (33 kg).
Child Dosage (ages 3 months-17 years)
  • oral capsule: For children who weigh more than 72.75 pounds (33 kg) and can swallow the capsule, the dose is 200 mg given once per day.
  • oral solution: The dose is 6 mg/kg given once per day. The maximum amount is 240 mg (24 mL) per day.
Senior Dosage (ages 65 years and older)

There are no specific recommendations for senior dosing. Older adults may process drugs more slowly. A normal adult dose may cause levels of the drug to be higher than normal. If you’re a senior, you may need a lower dose or you may need a different schedule.

Special considerations

Kidney Disease: If you have kidney disease, your kidneys may take longer to remove Emtriva from your body. This can lead to toxic side effects. Your doctor may check your kidney function with a blood test. If your kidneys function slowly, your doctor may adjust your dosage size or scheduling.

Disclaimer: Our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and current information. However, because drugs affect each person differently, we cannot guarantee that this list includes all possible dosages. This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Always to speak with your doctor or pharmacist about dosages that are right for you.
Pharmacist's Advice
Healthline Pharmacist Editorial Team

Keeping HIV infection under control requires lifelong treatment. There can be serious health consequences if you don’t take this drug exactly how your doctor tells you.

If You Don’t Take It at All

If you don’t take it at all, your HIV infection will eventually reduce your immunity to a point that your body won’t be able to defend itself against many types of infections. You may not be able to defend against infections that are commonly cured in people who don’t have HIV infection.

If You Stop or Miss Doses

If you stop taking this medication, miss doses, or don’t take it on schedule, the amount of medication in your body fluctuates. This can allow the HIV in your body to become resistant to the drug, which means the drug stops working.

If You Don’t Take It on Schedule

Taking your drug at the same time every day keeps a constant amount of the drug in your body. This helps make the drug as effective as possible at keeping the virus under control.

What To Do if I Miss a Dose

If you’re just a few hours late for your daily dose, take it as soon as you remember.

If it's just a few hours until your next dose, wait and take a single dose at the usual time.

Take just one dose at a time. Never try to catch up by taking a double dose. This could result in toxic side effects.

How Can I Tell if the Drug Is Working?

To see how well your treatment is working, your doctor will check your:

  • virus count. A virus count measures the number of copies of HIV in your body. A decreased virus count is a sign that your treatment is working.
  • CD4 count. A CD4 count measures the number of CD4 cells in your body. CD4 cells are white blood cells that fight infection. An increased CD4 count is a sign that your treatment is working.

Emtriva is a long-term drug treatment.

Don’t cut or crush the oral capsule

If you can’t swallow the capsule, there’s an oral solution available.

Store capsules at 68–77°F (20–25°C)

You can briefly store the drug in temperatures from 59–86°F (15–30°C). If you keep it at room temperature, you should use it within three months.

The oral solution will stay the freshest if it’s refrigerated at 36–46°F (2–8°C). The oral solution can be briefly stored at temperatures from 59–86°F (15–30°C).

Keep all drugs tightly closed and away from heat, light, and moisture. 

High humidity can reduce the effectiveness of Emtriva. Be careful of moist environments, including bathrooms. To keep drugs away from moisture, store them somewhere other than your bathroom and any other damp location.

Clinical Monitoring

Kidney and liver function tests: Your doctor may check your kidney and liver function before and during your treatment with this drug. You may also have a blood test to check for hepatitis B virus infection.

CD4 cell count and virus count: To see how well your treatment is working, your doctor will check your:

  • virus count. A virus count measures the number of copies of HIV in your body. A decreased virus count can be a sign that your treatment is working.
  • CD4 count. A CD4 count measures the number of CD4 cells in your body. CD4 cells are white blood cells that fight infection. An increased CD4 count is a sign that your treatment is working.

Not every pharmacy stocks this drug, so call ahead

If you only need a few capsules, you should call and ask if your pharmacy dispenses only a small number of capsules. Some pharmacies can't dispense only part of a bottle.

This drug is often available from specialty pharmacies through your insurance plan. These pharmacies operate like mail order pharmacies and ship the drug to you.

In larger cities, there will often be HIV pharmacies where you can have your prescriptions filled. Ask your doctor if there's an HIV pharmacy in your area.

Insurance

Many insurance plans will require a prior authorization before they will approve payment for this drug. Your doctor may have to do paperwork, which could delay treatment for a week or two.

What does the pill look like?

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Are There Any Alternatives?

There are other drugs and combinations that can treat HIV infection. Some may be more suitable for you than others. Talk to your doctor about possible alternatives.


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Content developed in collaboration with Susan J. Bliss, RPh, MBA

Medically reviewed by Creighton University, Center for Drug Information and Evidence-Based Practice on April 20, 2015

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Disclaimer: Healthline has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up-to-date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or other healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.

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