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All about: Abacavir

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Generic Name: Abacavir Tablets (ah-bah-KAH-ver)
Brand Name: Ziagen

Abacavir can cause severe, even fatal, allergic reactions, liver problems, and blood acid-base balance (lactic acidosis) problems. If you develop symptoms such as rash, fever, fatigue, difficult or rapid breathing, cough, throat inflammation, dark urine, yellowing of the skin or eyes, drowsiness, muscle aches, stomach/abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea, immediately stop using Abacavir and notify your doctor. Do not restart Abacavir if an allergic reaction to Abacavir has occurred because more severe, life-threatening problems could occur (including low blood pressure and death). Also, if an allergic reaction is only suspected, Abacavir should never be restarted.


Abacavir is used for:

Treating HIV infection with other medications.

Abacavir is a nucleoside analog reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NRTI). It works by slowing down the growth of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Do NOT use Abacavir if:

  • you are allergic to any ingredient in Abacavir
  • you have had a recent abnormal liver function test or have moderate to severe liver problems

Contact your doctor or health care provider right away if any of these apply to you.

Before using Abacavir :

Some medical conditions may interact with Abacavir . Tell your doctor or pharmacist if you have any medical conditions, especially if any of the following apply to you:

  • if you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or are breast-feeding or thinking about breast-feeding
  • if you are taking any prescription or nonprescription medicine, herbal preparation, or dietary supplement
  • if you have allergies to medicines, foods, or other substances
  • if you are unusually tired or have a fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, a cough, or a skin rash
  • if you have shortness of breath, an allergic reaction, or a sore throat

Some MEDICINES MAY INTERACT with Abacavir . Tell your health care provider if you are taking any other medicines, especially any of the following:

  • Methadone because the effectiveness may be decreased by Abacavir
  • Alcohol because the side effects and toxic effects of Abacavir may be increased

This may not be a complete list of all interactions that may occur. Ask your health care provider if Abacavir may interact with other medicines that you take. Check with your health care provider before you start, stop, or change the dose of any medicine.

How to use Abacavir :

Use Abacavir as directed by your doctor. Check the label on the medicine for exact dosing instructions.

  • Abacavir comes with an additional patient information sheet called a Medication Guide. Read it carefully and reread it each time you get Abacavir refilled.
  • Abacavir comes with a Warning Card that provides information about recognition of allergic reactions. Carry the Warning Card of allergy symptoms with you. Tell your health care provider immediately about any side effects you experience while taking Abacavir .
  • Abacavir may be taken with or without food.
  • Using Abacavir at the same times each day will help you to remember.
  • Continue to use Abacavir even if you feel well.
  • If you miss a dose of Abacavir , take it as soon as possible. If it is almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and go back to your regular dosing schedule. Do not take 2 doses at once.

Ask your health care provider any questions you may have about how to use Abacavir .

Important safety information:

  • If you drink more than 3 alcohol-containing drinks a day, do not take Abacavir without first discussing it with your doctor.
  • Before you have any medical or dental treatments, emergency care, or surgery, tell the doctor or dentist that you are using Abacavir .
  • The virus may develop resistance to Abacavir if you stop taking it, even for a short period of time, and may become harder to treat.
  • If you must stop taking Abacavir for any reason other than a serious allergic reaction, do not take Abacavir again without talking with your health care provider. If your health care provider decides that you may take Abacavir again, you should do so only in a setting with other people in case you need immediate access to a doctor.
  • When your medicine supply begins to run low, get more from your doctor or pharmacist as soon as possible. The HIV may develop resistance to this medicine if you stop taking it, even for a short period of time, or it may become harder to treat.
  • Changes in body fat may occur while you are taking Abacavir (eg, increased fat in the upper back and stomach areas, decreased fat in the arms and legs). The cause and long-term effects of these changes are unknown. Discuss the risks and benefits of therapy with your doctor, as well as the possible role of exercise to reduce this side effect.
  • Abacavir offers no protection from the transmission of HIV to others through sexual contact or blood contamination. Use barrier forms of contraception (eg, condoms) if you are infected with HIV.
  • Abacavir is not a cure for HIV infection and patients may continue to acquire illnesses/infections associated with HIV infection (the virus that causes AIDS). Remain under the care of your health care provider.
  • LAB TESTS, including liver function and monitoring for hypersensitivity reactions, may be performed to monitor your progress or to check for side effects. Be sure to keep all doctor and lab appointments.
  • Use Abacavir with caution in the ELDERLY because they may be more sensitive to its effects, especially liver, kidney, or heart problems.
  • Abacavir is not recommended for use in CHILDREN younger than 3 months of age. Safety and effectiveness in this age group have not been confirmed.
  • PREGNANCY and BREAST-FEEDING: If you plan on becoming pregnant, discuss with your doctor the benefits and risks of using Abacavir during pregnancy. It is unknown if Abacavir is excreted in breast milk. HIV-infected mothers should not breast-feed their infants because of the risk of transmitting the HIV infection or Abacavir .

Possible side effects of Abacavir :

All medicines may cause side effects, but many people have no, or minor, side effects. Check with your doctor if any of these most COMMON side effects persist or become bothersome:

Exhaustion; flushing; general body discomfort; headache; joint pain; lack of energy; loss of appetite; mouth sores; muscle aches; redness of the eyes or swelling of the conjunctiva; severe muscle pain or cramping; sleeplessness; swelling; unusual weakness.

Seek medical attention right away if any of these SEVERE side effects occur:

Severe allergic reactions (rash; hives; difficulty breathing; tightness in the chest; swelling of the mouth, face, lips, or tongue); abnormal skin sensations; achiness; chest pain; cough; diarrhea; extreme tiredness; fainting; fever; flu-like illness; generally ill feeling; nausea; severe dizziness; shortness of breath; sore throat; stomach pain; vomiting.

This is not a complete list of all side effects that may occur. If you have questions or need medical advice about side effects, contact your doctor or health care provider. You may report side effects to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088 (1-800-332-1088) or at http://www.fda.gov/medwatch.

If OVERDOSE is suspected:

Contact 1-800-222-1222 (the American Association of Poison Control Centers), your local poison control center (http://www.aapcc.org/findyour.htm), or emergency room immediately.

Proper storage of Abacavir :

Store Abacavir at room temperature, between 68 and 77 degrees F (20 and 25 degrees C). Store away from heat, moisture, and light. Do not store in the bathroom. Keep Abacavir out of the reach of children and away from pets.

General information:

  • If you have any questions about Abacavir , please talk with your doctor, pharmacist, or other health care provider.
  • Abacavir is to be used only by the patient for whom it is prescribed. Do not share it with other people.
  • If your symptoms do not improve or if they become worse, check with your doctor.

This information is summary only. It does not contain all information about Abacavir . If you have questions about the medicine you are taking or would like more information, check with your doctor, pharmacist, or other health care provider.

Issue Date: September 5, 2007
Database Edition 07.3.1.003
Copyright © 2007 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc.

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