Written by Rachel Nall | Published on October 25, 2013
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD, MBA on October 25, 2013

What Is Epivir?

Brand Name: Epivir
Generic Name: Lamivudine, 3TC

Epivir is a medication that is a used to treat HIV. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved Epivir for use by patients ages 3 and older.  

Read the FDA description of Epivir.

What Does Epivir Do?

Epivir belongs to a class of medications known as nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs). Epivir works to block an enzyme called reverse transcriptase, which HIV needs to replicate. As a result, HIV cannot multiply as quickly. Epivir does not cure HIV but instead slows the disease’s progression.

This information is a summary. Before starting this medication, discuss questions with your healthcare provider and make sure you understand dosage instructions.

What Should I Tell My Doctor Before Starting Epivir?

Tell your doctor if you:

  • have an allergy to lamivudine or other medications
  • are breastfeeding or are planning on breastfeeding
  • are pregnant or are thinking of becoming pregnant
  • have a medical history of pancreatitis (in children)
  • have kidney problems
  • have a history of liver disease, such as hepatitis B or hepatitis C

What Medications May Interact with Epivir?

Always tell your physician about any prescription medications or herbal remedies you are taking.

Medications that can adversely interact with Epivir include:

  • other medications that contain lamiduvine
  • zalcitabine (Hivid)

Possible Side Effects of Epivir

The following are severe and emergent side effects of Epivir. Report to your medical provider immediately if you experience:

  • severe or worsening liver disease, particularly if you have the hepatitis B or hepatitis C; symptoms of this condition include dark urine, decrease in appetite, fatigue, jaundice or yellowing skin, nausea, and tenderness over the liver
  • immune reconstitution syndrome, a condition that causes an inflammatory response in viruses in the blood, such as pneumonia or tuberculosis
  • lactic acidosis, a condition that causes excess amounts of acid to build up in your blood; this causes symptoms such as weakness, tiredness, difficulty breathing, stomach pain, feeling cold, and feeling dizzy
  • pancreatitis, or inflammation of the pancreas; pancreatitis symptoms include stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, and tenderness when touching the stomach

The following side effects may occur but do not usually represent an emergency. Discuss with your doctor or healthcare professional if they continue or are bothersome.

  • changes in the distribution of body fat, such as an increasing amount of fat on the neck
  • cough
  • diarrhea
  • fatigue
  • headache
  • malaise
  • nasal symptoms, such as runny nose
  • nausea

This list may not describe all possible side effects. Call your doctor or healthcare provider for advice about side effects. You may report side effects to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

Where Should I Keep Epivir?

In tablet form, Epivir should be stored at between 59 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit (15 to 30 degrees Celsius). Epivir oral solution should be stored at between 68 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit (20 to 25 degrees Celsius).

Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use this medication only for the indication prescribed.

FDA WARNING: Epivir carries a black box warning due to a risk for life-threatening effects, including lactic acidosis, severe liver problems, and pancreatitis. Notify your physician immediately if you suspect you are experiencing any of these conditions.

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Article Sources:

●      Epivir. (November 2011). U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Retrieved October 20, 2013, from http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2011/020564s031,020596s030lbl.pdf
●      Epivir (Lamiduvine). (January 2011). National Institutes of Health, Health & Human Services. Retrieved October 20, 2013, from http://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/lookup.cfm?setid=786992bd-13a0-4a00-dfb2-6c135ecd349b
●      Lamivudine. (2013, August 23). AIDSinfo. Retrieved October 20, 2013, from http://aidsinfo.nih.gov/drugs/126/lamivudine/0/patient
●      Lamivudine. (2012, October 15). U.S. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved October 20, 2013, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/meds/a696011.html
●      Pancreatitis. (2011, January 15). MayoClinic.com. Retrieved October 20, 2013, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/pancreatitis/DS00371/METHOD=print

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