Highlights for lamivudine
- Lamivudine oral tablet is available as a generic drug and a brand-name drug. Brand name: Epivir.
- Lamivudine comes as an oral tablet and an oral solution.
- Lamivudine is used to treat human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. It’s used in combination with other HIV drugs. It isn’t used on its own to treat HIV infection.
- This drug has black box warnings. A black box warning is the most serious warning from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). A black box warning alerts doctors and patients about drug effects that may be dangerous.
- Lactic acidosis and severe liver enlargement warning: These conditions have occurred in people who take lamivudine. If you have symptoms of these conditions, call your doctor right away. These symptoms can include: stomach pain, diarrhea, shallow breathing, muscle pain, weakness, and feeling cold or dizzy.
- Warning for people with hepatitis B virus infection: If you take lamivudine and then stop taking it, your hepatitis B virus infection could become much more severe. Your healthcare provider would need to monitor you very carefully if this happens.
If you’ve used lamivudine for hepatitis B virus infection, be aware that lamivudine that is prescribed for HIV infection is a different strength. If you have HIV infection, don’t use lamivudine prescribed to treat hepatitis B virus infection. You should only take drugs that are approved to treat HIV infection.
- Pancreatitis warning: Pancreatitis, or swelling of the pancreas, has occurred very rarely in people who take lamivudine. Signs of pancreatitis include stomach bloating, pain, nausea, vomiting and tenderness when touching the stomach. People who have had pancreatitis in the past may be at greater risk.
- Liver disease warning: You could develop liver disease while taking this drug. If you already have hepatitis B or hepatitis C, your hepatitis could get worse. Symptoms of liver disease may include dark urine, loss of appetite, fatigue, jaundice (yellowing skin), nausea, and tenderness in the stomach area.
- Immune reconstitution syndrome (IRS) warning: With IRS, your recovering immune system causes infections you’ve had in the past to return. Examples of past infections include fungal infections, pneumonia, or tuberculosis. Your doctor may need to treat the old infection if this happens.
What is lamivudine?
Lamivudine is a prescription drug. It’s available as an oral tablet and an oral solution.
Lamivudine is available as the brand-name drug Epivir. It’s also available as a generic drug. Generic drugs usually cost less. In some cases, they may not be available in every strength or form as the brand-name version.
This drug is used as part of a combination therapy. You’ll need to take it with other drugs to treat your HIV infection.
Why it's used
Lamivudine helps slow the progression of HIV by limiting the virus’s ability to make copies of itself. However, it doesn’t cure HIV infection.
How it works
Lamivudine is a type of drug called a nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NRTI).
In order to make copies of itself and spread in your body, HIV needs to use an enzyme called reverse transcriptase. NRTIs such as lamivudine block this enzyme. Lamivudine prevents HIV from making copies as quickly, and it slows down the virus’s ability to spread.
When lamivudine is used on its own, it can lead to drug resistance. It must be used in combination with at least two other antiretroviral drugs to control your HIV.
Lamivudine side effects
Lamivudine doesn’t cause drowsiness and has fewer side effects than many other drugs that treat HIV infection. Most side effects are also less severe than those of other HIV drugs.
More common side effects
The more common side effects that can occur with lamivudine include:
- changes in the distribution of fat on your body, such as an increasing amount of fat on your neck and back
- malaise (general discomfort)
- nasal symptoms, such as a runny nose
Serious side effects
Call your doctor right away if you have serious side effects. Call 911 if your symptoms feel life-threatening or if you think you’re having a medical emergency. Serious side effects and their symptoms can include the following:
- Lactic acidosis or severe liver enlargement. Symptoms can include:
- stomach pain
- shallow breathing
- muscle pain
- feeling cold or dizzy
- Pancreatitis. Symptoms can include:
- stomach bloating
- tenderness when touching the abdomen
- Hypersensitivity or anaphylaxis. Symptoms can include:
- sudden or severe rash
- breathing problems
- Liver disease. Symptoms can include:
- dark urine
- loss of appetite
- jaundice (yellowing skin)
- tenderness in the stomach area
- Worsening hepatitis B virus infection
- Fungal infection, pneumonia, or tuberculosis. These could be a sign that you’re experiencing immune reconstitution syndrome.
Disclaimer: Our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and current information. However, because drugs affect each person differently, we can not 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.
Lamivudine may interact with other medications
Lamivudine oral tablet can interact with other medications, vitamins, or herbs you may be taking. An interaction is when a substance changes the way a drug works. This can be harmful or prevent the drug from working well.
To help avoid interactions, your doctor should manage all of your medications carefully. Be sure to tell your doctor about all medications, vitamins, or herbs you’re taking. To find out how this drug might interact with something else you’re taking, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.
Examples of drugs that can cause interactions with lamivudine are listed below.
Don’t take emtricitabine if you’re also taking lamivudine. They are similar drugs and taking them together can increase the dangerous side effects of emtricitabine. Drugs that contain emtricitabine include:
- emtricitabine (Emtriva)
- emtricitabine/tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (Truvada)
- emtricitabine/tenofovir alafenamide fumarate (Descovy)
- efavirenz/emtricitabine/tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (Atripla)
- rilpivirine/emtricitabine /tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (Complera)
- rilpivirine/emtricitabine/tenofovir alafenamide fumarate (Odefsey)
- emtricitabine/tenofovir disoproxil fumarate/elvitegravir/cobicistat (Stribild)
- emtricitabine/tenofovir alafenamide fumarate/elvitegravir/cobicistat (Genvoya)
This combination antibiotic is used to treat various infections, including urinary tract infection and traveler’s diarrhea. Lamivudine can interact with these drugs. Talk to your doctor if you’re taking this antibiotic. Other names for it include:
- Septra DS
- Cotrim DS
Interferon- and ribavirin-based drugs
These drugs are sometimes taken with lamivudine for hepatitis C virus infection. However, the extra workload on the liver that these drugs cause can lead to liver disease. Examples of these drugs include:
Disclaimer: Our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and current information. However, because drugs interact differently in each person, we can not 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.
This drug comes with several warnings.
If you experience wheezing, hives, or breathing problems after taking this drug, you may be allergic to it. Stop taking it immediately and go to an emergency room or call 911.
If you’ve had an allergic reaction to lamivudine in the past, do not take it again. Taking it again could be fatal (cause death).
Warnings for people with certain health conditions
For people with hepatitis B: If you have both HIV and hepatitis B virus infection, lamivudine could lose its effectiveness more quickly than if you didn’t have hepatitis B virus infection. Your doctor will monitor you for both diseases and may need to adjust your treatment.
For people with hepatitis C: If you have HIV infection and hepatitis C virus infection and take interferon and ribavirin for hepatitis C virus infection, you could experience liver damage. Your doctor should monitor you for liver damage if you’re combining lamivudine with these drugs.
For people with pancreatitis: People who have had pancreatitis in the past may be at greater risk for developing the condition again when taking this drug. Symptoms of pancreatitis may include stomach bloating, pain, nausea, vomiting, and tenderness when touching the stomach.
For people with slow kidney function: If you have kidney disease or reduced kidney function, your kidneys may not process lamivudine from your body quickly enough. Your doctor may decrease your dosage so that the drug doesn’t build up in your body.
Warnings for other groups
For pregnant women: There are no adequate and well-controlled studies of lamivudine in pregnant women. Lamivudine should be used during pregnancy only if the potential benefit outweighs potential risk to the pregnancy.
Call your doctor if you become pregnant while taking this drug.
For women who are breastfeeding: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that women with HIV do not breastfeed in order to avoid passing HIV through breast milk.
For seniors: If you are aged 65 years or older, your body may process this drug more slowly. Your doctor may start you on a lowered dose so that too much of this drug does not build up in your body. Too much of the drug in your body can be toxic.
How to take lamivudine
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
Dosage for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection
- Form: oral tablet
- Strengths: 150 mg, 300 mg
- Form: oral tablet
- Strengths: 150 mg, 300 mg
Adult dosage (ages 18 years and older)
- Typical dosage: 300 mg each day. This amount can be given as 150 mg twice a day, or 300 mg once a day.
Child dosage (ages 3 months to 17 years)
Dosage is based on your child’s weight.
- Typical dosage: 4 mg/kg, twice per day, or 8 mg/kg once daily.
- Maximum dosage: 300 mg daily.
Child dosage (ages 0–2 months)
Dosage for children younger than 3 months has not been established.
Special dosage considerations
- For children and others who can’t swallow tablets: Children and others who can’t swallow tablets may take the oral solution instead. The dosage is based on body weight. Your doctor will determine the dosage. The tablet form is preferred for children who weigh at least 31 pounds (14 kg) and can swallow tablets.
- For children: Children aged 3 months or older can be treated with lamivudine. A child’s dose will be based on their body weight. If you child needs lamivudine, your pediatrician will decide what dose to give.
- For people with kidney disease: Your kidneys may not process lamivudine from your blood quickly enough. Your doctor may decrease the dose so that the drug level doesn’t get too high in your body.
- For people with hepatitis B virus infection: If you have hepatitis B virus infection your doctor will adjust your dosage based on the HBV medications you’re taking.
Disclaimer: Our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and current information. However, because drugs affect each person differently, we can not 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.
Take as directed
Lamivudine is used for long-term treatment. There can be very serious health consequences if you don’t take this drug exactly how your doctor tells you.
If you stop taking the drug or don’t take it at all: Your HIV infection can become worse. You may have many more serious infections and HIV-related problems.
If you miss doses or don’t take the drug on schedule: Taking this drug at the same time every day increases your ability to keep the virus under control. If you don’t, you risk worsened infection.
What to do if you miss a dose: If you forget to take your dose, take it as soon as you remember. If it's just a few hours until your next dose, wait and take your normal dose at the usual time.
Take just one tablet at a time. Never try to catch up by taking two tablets at once. This could result in dangerous side effects.
How to 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 the HIV virus in your body.
- CD4 count. A CD4 count measures the amount of CD4 cells in your body. CD4 cells are white blood cells that fight infection. An increased CD4 count is a sign that your HIV treatment is working.
Important considerations for taking lamivudine
Keep these considerations in mind if your doctor prescribes lamivudine for you.
- You can take lamivudine with or without food.
- You can cut or crush the lamivudine tablet.
- If you have trouble using the tablet form of the drug, ask your doctor about the solution form.
- Keep lamivudine tablets at room temperature between 68°F and 77°F (20°C and 25°C).
- The tablets can occasionally be in temperatures between 59°F and 86°F (15°C and 30°C).
- Keep bottles of tablets tightly closed to keep them fresh and potent.
- Don’t store this medication in moist or damp areas, such as bathrooms.
A prescription for this medication is refillable. You should not need a new prescription for this medication to be refilled. Your doctor will write the number of refills authorized on your
Clinical monitoring will include:
- appointments with your doctor
- occasional blood tests for liver function and CD4 count. (CD4 cells are a type of white blood cell that fights infections.)
- other examinations
While you take lamivudine, you will need:
- blood tests to check liver function
- blood tests to measure CD4 count
- Call ahead: Not every pharmacy stocks this drug. When filling your prescription, be sure to call ahead to make sure they carry it.
- Small amounts: If you only need a few tablets, you should call your pharmacy and ask if it dispenses only a small number of tablets. Some pharmacies can't dispense only part of a bottle.
- Specialty pharmacies: 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.
- HIV pharmacies: In larger cities, there will often be HIV pharmacies where you can have your prescriptions filled. Ask your doctor if there's a HIV pharmacy in your area.
Many insurance companies require a prior authorization for this drug. This means your doctor will need to get approval from your insurance company before your insurance company will pay for the prescription.
Are there any alternatives?
There are many drugs and combinations that can treat HIV infection. Some may be more suitable for you than others. Talk to your doctor about possible alternatives.
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 here in 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.