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All about: Abacavir sulfate

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Generic name: Abacavir sulfate
Brand names: Ziagen

Why is Abacavir sulfate prescribed?

Ziagen helps to halt the inroads of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Without treatment, HIV gradually undermines the body's immune system, encouraging other infections to take hold until the body succumbs to full-blown acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS).

Like other anti-HIV drugs, Ziagen holds back the advance of the virus by disrupting its reproductive cycle. This medication is used only as part of a "drug cocktail" that attacks the virus on several fronts. It is not prescribed alone.

Most important fact about Abacavir sulfate

Ziagen is not a cure for HIV infection or AIDS. It does not completely eliminate HIV from the body or totally restore the immune system. You will continue to face the danger of serious opportunistic infections (unusual infections that develop only when the immune system falters). It's important, therefore, to continue seeing your doctor for regular blood counts and tests, and to notify him immediately of any changes in your general health.

How should you take Abacavir sulfate?

It is important to keep adequate levels of Ziagen in your bloodstream at all times, so be sure to keep a supply on hand at all times and take Abacavir sulfate exactly as prescribed, even when you're feeling better. Ziagen 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 your next dose, skip the one you missed and go back to your regular schedule. Do not take 2 doses at once.

--Storage instructions...

Both the tablets and the oral solution may be stored at room temperature. The oral solution may also be refrigerated, but do not allow it to freeze.

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 Ziagen.

  • More common side effects may include:
    Abdominal pain, cough, diarrhea, fatigue, fever or chills, generally ill feeling, headache/migraine, joint pain, mouth ulcers, muscle aches or weakness, nausea, rash, severe blisters in the mouth and eyes, severe peeling skin, shortness of breath, skin tingling or burning, sleep disorders, sore throat, swelling, tiredness, vomiting

Why should Abacavir sulfate not be prescribed?

If the active ingredient abacavir (found in Ziagen and Trizivir) gives you an allergic reaction, you must never take it again. If you've failed to get any benefit from HIV drugs that work the same way as Ziagen (Epivir, Videx, or Hivid), Abacavir sulfate probably won't work for you either. Make sure the doctor knows the results of all the drug treatments you've been given.

You will not be able to use Ziagen if you have moderate-to-severe liver disease.

Special warnings about Abacavir sulfate

Be alert for development of a skin rash, severe peeling skin, or two or more of the following sets of symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or abdominal pain
  • Severe tiredness, achiness, or a generally ill feeling
  • Sore throat, shortness of breath, or cough

If these symptoms appear, stop taking Ziagen and call your doctor immediately. You may be experiencing a potentially fatal allergic reaction. Once you've had such a reaction, never take Ziagen again. In fact, avoid Ziagen permanently if there's even a possibility that you've had an allergic reaction. Additional doses could trigger a dangerous drop in blood pressure and other life-threatening symptoms.

Keep in mind, too, that a severe and even fatal allergic reaction is possible when you resume taking Ziagen after an interruption in therapy--even if you've never experienced signs of an allergic reaction before. Resume Ziagen therapy only under your doctor's close supervision.

If you are overweight or have been taking HIV drugs similar to Ziagen (Epivir, Videx, or Hivid) for a long period of time, you are more likely to develop liver problems and a complication called lactic acidosis (a buildup of lactic acid in the body). If you develop either of these conditions, your doctor will take you off of Ziagen.

Like other HIV drugs, Ziagen sometimes causes a redistribution of body fat, resulting in added weight around the waist, a "buffalo hump" of fat on the upper back, breast enlargement, and wasting of the face, arms, and legs. It's not known why this occurs, or what long-term effects it might have.

Because Ziagen and other HIV medications do not completely eliminate the virus, it remains possible to infect others with HIV through sexual contact or blood contamination. Continue to practice safe sex while using Ziagen.

Possible food and drug interactions when taking Abacavir sulfate

If you are taking methadone, there is a slight chance that your dosage of methadone may need to be increased.

Special information if you are pregnant or breastfeeding

The effects of Ziagen during pregnancy have not been adequately studied. If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant, tell your doctor immediately.

Since HIV infection can be passed to your baby through breast milk, you should avoid breastfeeding.

Recommended dosage

ADULTS

The recommended dose is 300 milligrams twice a day in combination with other anti-HIV drugs.

CHILDREN

The recommended dose for children and adolescents 3 months to 16 years of age is 8 milligrams per 2.2 pounds of body weight twice a day in combination with other anti-HIV drugs. Do not exceed 300 milligrams twice a day.

DOSAGE ADJUSTMENT

Ziagen oral solution is recommended for people with mild liver problems. The usual dose is 10 milliliters (200 milligrams) twice a day.

Overdosage

Any medication taken in excess can have serious consequences. If you suspect an overdose of Ziagen, seek medical attention immediately.

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