Generic Name: raltegravir, Oral tablet

Isentress

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  • Isentress
SECTION 1 of 4

Highlights for raltegravir

Oral tablet
1

Isentress is used along with other HIV drugs to treat HIV infection.

2

It has a smaller risk of side effects than many drugs used to treat HIV. Common side effects include dizziness, tiredness, and others.

3

Isentress is an oral tablet taken twice a day. It’s also available as a chewable tablet that may be used for kids’ dosing.

4

This medication is effective if you take it every day. If you don’t take it every day, or if you skip a dose, your HIV may become worse, or the drug may not work as well for you in the future.

5

Your insurance company may need to authorize your prescription.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION

May cause drug hypersensitivity

Some people may react to the drug in an extreme way. It can cause hypersensitive reactions and severe skin rash that may be signs of a potentially fatal reaction. Stop taking the drug immediately and see a doctor if you develop:

  • a severe rash
  • fever, fatigue, muscle, and joint aches
  • blisters on the skin or in the mouth

May cause immune reconstitution syndrome

An improved immune system may cause old, inactive infections to suddenly get worse. This happens when your body over-responds to an old infection and makes your symptoms worse. Examples are fungal infections like tuberculosis or cytomegalovirus. Signs include breathing problems, cough, or fatigue.

Contains phenylalanine

If you have phenylketonuria, you should be aware that chewable Isentress contains phenylalanine. Some people with phenylketonuria can’t process this ingredient and should avoid it. Excess phenylalanine in the body can cause difficulty in thinking or understanding, acting out, and other behavior problems.

May cause rhabdomyolysis

This is a serious but rare side effect of Isentress. In this condition, muscle fibers start to break apart and the kidneys stop working well. Symptoms may include tea-colored urine and muscle pain. Rhabdomyolysis is diagnosed with lab tests for kidney function, inflammation, and other tests.

Drug Features

Isentress is a prescription drug. It is available in these forms: oral tablet, chewable oral tablet, and oral powder (suspension).

Why It's Used

Isentress is used to treat HIV in adults and children ages 2 and older.

How It Works

Isentress belongs to a class of drugs called integrase inhibitors.

More Details

How It Works

Isentress belongs to a class of drugs called integrase inhibitors. A class of drugs refers to medications that work similarly. They have a similar chemical structure and are often used to treat similar conditions.

HIV spreads through your body by combining with the DNA in your healthy cells. An enzyme called integrase allows the HIV virus to combine with your DNA. Isentress blocks this action, which prevents HIV from replicating in your body and spreading.

SECTION 2 of 4

raltegravir Side Effects

Oral tablet

Most Common Side Effects

Isentress has a smaller risk of side effects than many drugs used to treat HIV. 

Common side effects that you could experience include:

  • difficulty sleeping

  • dizziness

  • headache

  • nausea

  • tiredness

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.

  • feeling like you have a viral infection immediately after taking the medication. Signs include fatigue and weakness.

  • a severe allergic reaction, including swelling in your mouth or face, difficulty breathing, and extreme tiredness.

  • blisters or sores in your mouth, peeling skin, or redness and swelling in your eyes

  • skin changes, as well as yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes, darkened urine, nausea, and other symptoms of liver problems. These indicate a decrease in your liver’s function. The risk is higher in people who also have hepatitis B or hepatitis C.

  • depression or thoughts of suicide

  • kidney failure

  • anemia

  • symptoms of rhabdomyolysis, including muscle weakness or tenderness, persistent muscle pain, diarrhea, fever, or dark-colored urine

Pharmacist's Advice
Healthline Pharmacist Editorial Team

Isentress does not cause drowsiness.

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

raltegravir May Interact with Other Medications

Oral tablet

Although Isentress doesn’t interact with as many drugs as some of the other HIV medications, it can interact with other medications, herbs, or vitamins you might be taking. That’s why your doctor should manage all of your medications carefully. If you’re curious about how this drug might interact with something else you’re taking, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

Note: You can reduce your chances of drug interactions by having all of your prescriptions filled at the same pharmacy. That way, a pharmacist can check for possible drug interactions.

Medications That Might Interact with This Drug

Antacids

Don’t take antacids that contain magnesium hydroxide or aluminum hydroxide while taking Isentress. These over-the-counter drugs prevent the absorption of Isentress. If you need to take an antacid, ask your doctor or pharmacist for an alternative.

Drugs to Reduce Cholesterol and Triglycerides

This group includes statins and fibric acid. Combining these drugs with Isentress increases your risk for muscle aches and rhabdomyolysis, a serious but rare side effect of Isentress:

  • fenofibrate (Tricor)
  • gemfibrozil (Lopid)
  • statins (HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors, such as Lipitor, Zocor, and Mevacor)
  • zidovudine (Retrovir)

Healthcare providers may manage people on both drugs or discontinue the statin or fibric acid.

Other Drugs

Isentress also interacts with:

  • atazanavir (another HIV drug)
  • efavirenz (an HIV drug)
  • fosamprenavir (an HIV drug)
  • phenytoin
  • phenobarbital
  • rifampin, which may make the level of Isentress drop in your body
  • Tipranavir (an HIV drug)

Because some of these interactions may be minor, your healthcare provider may be able to adjust the dose to control the interactions.

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 liver disease

If you have severe liver disease, your healthcare provider may not prescribe Isentress. There have been no studies done on how the drug should be dosed for people with severe liver disease.

People with kidney disease

If you have kidney disease, your dose will not change. However, your doctor will adjust your dose if you’re on dialysis.

Pregnant women

Isentress is a category C pregnancy drug. That means two things:

  1. Research in animals has shown adverse effects to the fetus when the mother takes the drug.
  2. There haven’t been enough studies done in humans.

Despite risks, pregnant women may still use this drug if the benefits outweigh the potential for adverse effects. Talk to your doctor about Isentress if you’re pregnant or plan to become pregnant.

Women who are nursing

Isentress enters breast milk and can be passed to the baby while breastfeeding. It’s not recommended to breastfeed while taking this drug because the child could have serious side effects.

For Children

Keep all drugs, especially chewable tablets and suspension packets, away from children. These forms of the drug are flavored, and children might be curious about them and think they’re candy. This is a common source of drug overdoses in children.

Allergies

Isentress may cause a serious skin rash or allergic reaction.

SECTION 4 of 4

How to Take raltegravir (Dosage)

Oral tablet

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

The oral tablet dosing information below applies to adults and children who weigh at least 55 pounds. Children can take either the chewable tablet form of the drug or the oral suspension. These are dosed according to age and body weight. Kids who weigh more than 44 pounds (20 kg) should only take the chewable tablets. Talk to your doctor about dosing for children who take the chewable tablet or oral suspension form.

What Are You Taking This Medication For?

HIV

Brand: Isentress

Form: Oral Tablet, Chewable Oral Tablet, Oral Powder (Suspension)
Strength: 400 mg oral tablet, 100 mg chewable tablet, 100 mg packet for oral powder (suspension)
Adult Dosage (ages 18-64 years)

Take one 400 mg tablet by mouth twice a day.

Child Dosage (≥ 55 pounds)

For children who weigh at least 55 pounds, take one 400 mg tablet by mouth twice a day.

Child Dosage (< 55 pounds)

In children who weigh below 55 pounds, your doctor will provide a dose based on the child’s specific weight.

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

Children and Others Who Can’t Take the Oral Tablet: Isentress is available in chewable 100 mg tablets that can be broken in half.

It’s also available in 100 mg packets to make an oral suspension (liquid mix). To create the suspension, open the foil packet and add it to 5 mL of water in the mixing cup. Close the cup and swirl it for 30 – 60 seconds. Don’t turn the cup upside down. After mixing, give the dose with an oral syringe within 30 minutes of mixing. Throw away any unused drug.

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

This drug can help control HIV by blocking the virus’s ability to multiply in your body.  It can work well if you take it every day.

If You Skip Doses or Stop Taking It

If you skip doses or stop taking Isentress, the HIV virus may start to multiply again, making your infection worse. You may also have worse side effects, or the drug might not work well again for you.

If You Miss a Dose

If you forget to take your dose, take it as soon as you remember. If it’s only a few hours until your next dose, wait and take your usual dose.

Don’t take two doses to catch up.

How Can I Tell if the Drug is Working?

These tests will help your healthcare provider determine if the drug is working:

  • CD4 count blood tests
  • liver function tests
  • kidney function tests

Isentress is a long-term drug.

Do not crush the film-coated tablet.

It must be swallowed whole.

Store the film-coated tablets and chewable tablets at room temperature: 68 – 77°F (20 – 25°C)

If you’re away from home, temperatures between 59° and 86°F (15° to 30°C) are okay for a short time.

Keep the bottle of chewable tablets closed tightly. They will absorb water and crumble or get sticky if they’re exposed to the open air.

The oral suspension packets should also be kept tightly closed. They can also absorb moisture from the air.

Note: 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

This drug requires occasional lab tests, including:

  • CD4 count
  • blood tests to check liver function
  • blood tests to check kidney function

Not every pharmacy stocks this drug, so call ahead

If you only need a few tablets, you should call and ask if your pharmacy dispenses only a small number of tablets. 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 a local HIV pharmacy in your area.

Insurance

Many insurance companies will require a prior authorization (P.A.) before approving and paying for Isentress.

What does the pill look like?

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Are There Any Alternatives?

There are many drugs and combinations that can treat HIV. 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 Alan Carter, PharmD and Stacey Boudreaux, PharmD on January 22, 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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