HIV does its damage by slowly destroying the immune system, eventually leaving the body defenseless against infections. Like other drugs for HIV, Epivir interferes with the virus's ability to reproduce. This staves off the collapse of the immune system.
Most important fact about Epivir
The Epivir/zidovudine combination does not completely eliminate HIV or totally restore the immune system. There is still a danger of serious infections, so you should be sure to see your doctor regularly for monitoring and tests.
How should you take Epivir?
It's important to keep adequate levels of Epivir in your bloodstream at all times, so you need to keep taking this medication regularly, just as prescribed, even when you're feeling better. Epivir may be taken with or without food.
If you miss a dose...
Take it as soon as you remember. If it is almost time for the next dose, skip the one you missed and go back to your regular schedule. Do not take 2 doses at once.
Store at room temperature. Keep the bottle tightly closed.
What side effects may occur?
Side effects cannot be anticipated. If any develop or change in intensity, inform your doctor as soon as possible. Only your doctor can determine if it is safe for you to continue taking Epivir.
Side effects may include:
Abdominal cramps and pains, allergic reaction, anemia, chills, cough, depression, diarrhea, dizziness, enlarged lymph nodes, enlarged spleen, fatigue, fever, general feeling of illness, hair loss, headache, hives, insomnia and other sleep problems, itching, joint pain, liver damage, lost appetite, mouth sores, muscle and bone pain, muscle weakness or wasting, nasal problems, nausea, pancreatitis, prickling or tingling sensation, skin rashes, stomach upset, vomiting, weakness, wheezing
Why should Epivir not be prescribed?
If Epivir gives you an allergic reaction, you cannot take this drug.
Special warnings about Epivir
The Epivir tablets and liquid used to treat HIV are not interchangeable with Epivir-HBV, a low-dose form of the drug used to treat the chronic liver disease hepatitis B. If you have both HIV and hepatitis B, you should be treated with the high-strength form of the drug along with other HIV medications. Treatment with Epivir-HBV could promote drug-resistant strains of HIV. Note that when you stop taking Epivir, the hepatitis B may come back.
Remember that Epivir does not eliminate HIV from the body. The infection can still be passed to others through sexual contact or blood contamination.
Epivir can cause an enlarged liver and the chemical imbalance known as lactic acidosis. This serious and sometimes fatal side effect is more likely in women, people who are overweight, and those who have been taking drugs such as Epivir for an extended period. Signs of lactic acidosis include fatigue, nausea, abdominal pain, and a feeling of unwellness. Contact your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms. Treatment with Epivir may have to be discontinued.
The Epivir/zidovudine combination should be given to a child with a history of pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) only when there is no alternative. If any signs of a pancreas problem develop while the child is taking this combination, treatment should be stopped immediately. The chief signs of pancreatitis are bouts of severe abdominal pain—usually lasting for days—accompanied by nausea and vomiting.
Some people receiving drugs for HIV experience a redistribution of body fat, leading to extra fat around the middle, a "buffalo hump" on the back, and wasting in the arms, legs, and face. Researchers don't know whether this represents a long-term health problem or not.
Possible food and drug interactions when taking Epivir
Combining Epivir with the HIV drug zalcitabine is not recommended. Check with your doctor before combining Epivir with sulfamethoxazole and trimethoprim.
While no other interactions with Epivir have been reported, its companion drug, zidovudine, can interact with a number of medications.
Special information if you are pregnant or breastfeeding
The effects of Epivir during pregnancy have not been adequately studied, but there is reason to suspect some risk. If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant, notify your doctor immediately.
Since HIV can be passed to your baby through breast milk, you should not plan on breastfeeding.
Recommended dosage for Epivir
The usual dose (either tablets or liquid) is 150 milligrams twice daily or 300 milligrams once a day. Your doctor may adjust the dosage if you have kidney problems or weigh less than 110 pounds.
CHILDREN AGED 3 MONTHS TO 16 YEARS
The usual dose is 4 milligrams per 2.2 pounds of body weight twice a day, up to a maximum of 150 milligrams twice daily. The safety of Epivir in combination with antiretroviral drugs other than zidovudine has not been established in children.
The symptoms of Epivir overdose are unknown at this time. However, any medication taken in excess can have serious consequences. If you suspect an overdose, seek medical attention immediately.