How does this medication work? What will it do for me?
This combination product contains 2 medications: abacavir and lamivudine. Abacavir and lamivudine belong to a class of medications known as nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs). Reverse transcriptase is a part of HIV that is needed to infect cells in order to make more virus. Abacavir and lamivudine prevent reverse transcriptase from working properly.
The combination of these medications into a single product creates a simpler alternative to taking these medications individually.
Abacavir - lamivudine is used to help prevent the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) from reproducing. The HIV virus is the virus responsible for acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). HIV infection destroys CD4 (T) cells, which are important to the immune system. The immune system helps fight infections.
This medication does not cure AIDS and does not prevent it from being spread to others. It is used in combination with other anti-HIV medications to slow further growth or reproduction of HIV and seems to slow down the destruction of the immune system. This may help to delay the development of problems such as infections related to AIDS or HIV disease.
This medication may be available under multiple brand names and/or in several different forms. Any specific brand name of this medication may not be available in all of the forms or approved for all of the conditions discussed here. As well, some forms of this medication may not be used for all of the conditions discussed here.
Your doctor may have suggested this medication for conditions other than those listed in these drug information articles. If you have not discussed this with your doctor or are not sure why you are taking this medication, speak to your doctor. Do not stop taking this medication without consulting your doctor.
Do not give this medication to anyone else, even if they have the same symptoms as you do. It can be harmful for people to take this medication if their doctor has not prescribed it.
What form(s) does this medication come in?
Each mL of clear-to-opalescent, yellowish, strawberry-banana-flavoured liquid, contains abacavir sulfate equivalent to 20 mg of abacavir. Nonmedicinal ingredients: artificial strawberry and banana flavours, citric acid (anhydrous), hydrochloric acid, methylparaben, propylene glycol, propylparaben, saccharin sodium, sodium citrate (dihydrate), sodium hydroxide, and sorbitol solution.
Each yellow, biconvex, capsule-shaped, film-coated tablet, scored and imprinted with "GX 623" on both sides, contains 300 mg of abacavir. Nonmedicinal ingredients: colloidal silicon dioxide, hydroxypropyl methylcellulose, magnesium stearate, microcrystalline cellulose, polysorbate 80, sodium starch glycolate, titanium dioxide, triacetin, and yellow iron oxide.
How should I use this medication?
The recommended dose for adults, adolescents, and children, weighing at least 25 kg, is 600 mg daily. This may be taken as 300 mg taken twice a day or 600 mg taken once a day.
The recommended dose for children older than 3 months, and who weigh less than 25 kg is based on body weight. The usual dose is 8 mg per kilogram of body weight taken 2 times a day, up to a maximum dose of300 mg taken twice daily. Alternatively, a once daily dose of 16 mg per kg of body weight may be taken, up to a maximum of 600 mg once daily.
Abacavir must be taken in combination with other medications to treat HIV infection and it may be taken with food or on an empty stomach.
Many things can affect the dose of a medication that a person needs, such as body weight, other medical conditions, and other medications. If your doctor has recommended a dose different from the ones listed here, do not change the way that you are taking the medication without consulting your doctor.
Use an oral syringe to measure each dose of the liquid, as it gives a more accurate measurement than household teaspoons.
It is important that this medication be taken exactly as prescribed by your doctor. If you miss a dose, take it as soon as possible and continue with your regular schedule. If it is almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and continue with your regular dosing schedule. Do not take a double dose to make up for a missed one. If you are not sure what to do after missing a dose, contact your doctor or pharmacist for advice.
Store both the tablet and the liquid forms of this medication at room temperature, and keep them out of the reach of children.
Do not dispose of medications in wastewater (e.g. down the sink or in the toilet) or in household garbage. Ask your pharmacist how to dispose of medications that are no longer needed or have expired.
Who should NOT take this medication?
Do not take abacavir - lamivudine if you:
- are allergic to abacavir, lamivudine, or any ingredients of the medication
- have had a hypersensitivity reaction to abacavir or any medication containing abacavir
- have reduced liver function
- have a genetic variation known as HLA-B*5701
What side effects are possible with this medication?
Many medications can cause side effects. A side effect is an unwanted response to a medication when it is taken in normal doses. Side effects can be mild or severe, temporary or permanent.
The side effects listed below are not experienced by everyone who takes this medication. If you are concerned about side effects, discuss the risks and benefits of this medication with your doctor.
The following side effects have been reported by at least 1% of people taking this medication. Many of these side effects can be managed, and some may go away on their own over time.
Contact your doctor if you experience these side effects and they are severe or bothersome. Your pharmacist may be able to advise you on managing side effects.
- diarrhea (without other symptoms)
- fever (without other symptoms)
- hair loss
- headache (without other symptoms)
- joint and muscle pain (without other symptoms)
- lack of energy
- loss of appetite
- nausea (without other symptoms)
- skin rash (without other symptoms)
- trouble sleeping
- upper abdominal pain (without other symptoms)
- vomiting (without other symptoms)
Although most of the side effects listed below don't happen very often, they could lead to serious problems if you do not seek medical attention.
Check with your doctor as soon as possible if any of the following side effects occur:
- signs of anemia (low red blood cells; e.g., dizziness, pale skin, unusual tiredness or weakness, shortness of breath)
- signs of clotting problems (e.g., unusual nosebleeds, bruising, blood in urine, coughing blood, bleeding gums, cuts that don’t stop bleeding)
- signs of depression (e.g., poor concentration, changes in weight, changes in sleep, decreased interest in activities, thoughts of suicide)
- signs of infection (e.g., fever or chills, sore throat, cough)
- symptoms of liver problems (nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, weakness, diarrhea)
Stop taking the medication and seek immediate medical attention if any of the following occur:
- signs of bleeding in the stomach (e.g., bloody, black, or tarry stools, spitting up of blood, vomiting blood or material that looks like coffee grounds)
- signs of a severe skin reaction, e.g.:
- a rash combined with fever or discomfort
- a rash covering a large area of the body
- a rash that spreads quickly
- signs of pancreatitis, e.g.:
- abdominal pain on the upper left side
- back pain
- rapid heartbeat
- swollen abdomen
- signs of lactic acidosis, e.g.:
- abdominal pain
- increased breathing rate
- rapid heart rate
- unusual tiredness
- symptoms of allergic hypersensitivity reaction, e.g., :
- fever, rash
- nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or abdominal pain
- severe tiredness, achiness, or generally feeling ill
- sore throat, shortness of breath, or cough
Some people may experience side effects other than those listed. Check with your doctor if you notice any symptom that worries you while you are taking this medication.
Are there any other precautions or warnings for this medication?
Before you begin using a medication, be sure to inform your doctor of any medical conditions or allergies you may have, any medications you are taking, whether you are pregnant or breast-feeding, and any other significant facts about your health. These factors may affect how you should use this medication.
Heart attack: This medication may increase your risk of heart attack. If you have heart problems, smoke, have high blood pressure or have diabetes, discuss with your doctor how this medication may affect your medical condition, how your medical condition may affect the dosing and effectiveness of this medication, and whether any special monitoring is needed.
Hepatitis B: If you have hepatitis B, your condition may worsen or recur if you stop taking this medication. Do not stop taking this medication unless recommended by your doctor. If your doctor recommends that you stop taking this medication, they will monitor you for several months after stopping treatment.
Hypersensitivity reactions: This medication can cause serious and sometimes fatal, hypersensitivity reactions. If you experience any of the following sets of symptoms, stop taking this medication and contact your doctor immediately:
- nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or abdominal pain
- severe tiredness, achiness, or generally feeling ill
- sore throat, shortness of breath, or cough
These reactions usually occur within 6 weeks of starting this medication, but may occur at any time. If you have previously had an allergic reaction to abacavir or a medication that contains abacavir, you should not take this medication.
Immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome: This medication may cause immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome, where signs and symptoms of inflammation from previous infections appear. These symptoms occur soon after starting anti-HIV medication and can vary. They are thought to occur as a result of the immune system improving and being able to fight infections that have been present without symptoms (such as pneumonia, herpes, or tuberculosis). Report any new symptoms to your doctor as soon as possible.
Kidney function: Kidney disease or reduced kidney function may cause lamivudine to build up in the body, causing side effects. If you have reduced kidney function, discuss with your doctor how this medication may affect your medical condition, how your medical condition may affect the dosing and effectiveness of this medication, and whether any special monitoring is needed. People with severely reduced kidney function should not take this medication.
Lactic acidosis and enlarged fatty liver: Lamivudine can cause a rare but serious condition called lactic acidosis (build-up of lactic acid in the blood) together with an enlarged liver. This tends to occur more often in women, especially if they are overweight. If you experience any of the following symptoms, call your doctor immediately:
- abdominal pain, swelling, or bloating
- feeling unwell
- shortness of breath
- weight loss
Your doctor will monitor your liver function periodically by ordering laboratory tests.
Liver function: Liver disease or reduced liver function may cause abacavir to build up in the body, causing side effects. If you have reduced liver function or liver disease, discuss with your doctor how this medication may affect your medical condition, how your medical condition may affect the dosing and effectiveness of this medication, and whether any special monitoring is needed.
Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas): Abacavir - lamivudine may cause or worsen pancreatitis. If you have a history of or are at risk for developing pancreatitis, you should be closely monitored by your doctor while taking this medication. If you develop signs of pancreatitis (e.g., upper left abdominal pain, back pain, nausea, fever, chills, rapid heartbeat, swollen abdomen), contact your doctor.
Red blood cells: Pure red cell aplasia is a rare bone marrow disorder in which there is a reduction in red blood cells produced by the bone marrow. Symptoms include pallor, weakness, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, and decreased blood pressure. If you experience any of these symptoms contact your doctor immediately.
Stopping the medication: If you stop taking this medication, your HIV infection could get worse. Take the medication exactly as prescribed by your doctor, and do not stop taking the medication without checking with your doctor first.
Pregnancy: This medication should not be used during pregnancy unless the benefits outweigh the risks. If you become pregnant while taking this medication, contact your doctor immediately.
Breast-feeding: Lamivudine and abacavir pass into breast milk. Women who have HIV infection are cautioned against breast-feeding because of the risk of passing HIV to a baby who does not have the infection.
Children: This medication may be used by children less than 18 years of age who weigh more than 25 kg. Although both abacavir and lamivudine have been used to treat HIV for children, the doses of the ingredients in this medication cannot be adjusted and may not be appropriate for people who weigh less than 25 kg.
Seniors: People over the age of 65 years may be more at risk of side effects from this medication.
What other drugs could interact with this medication?
There may be an interaction between abacavir - lamivudine and any of the following:
- co-trimoxazole (sulfamethoxazole/trimethoprim)
- HIV protease inhibitors (e.g., atazanavir, indinavir, ritonavir, saquinavir)
- other medications that contain abacavir or lamivudine
- retinoid medications (e.g., isotretinoin)
If you are taking any of these medications, speak with your doctor or pharmacist. Depending on your specific circumstances, your doctor may want you to:
- stop taking one of the medications,
- change one of the medications to another,
- change how you are taking one or both of the medications, or
- leave everything as is.
An interaction between two medications does not always mean that you must stop taking one of them. Speak to your doctor about how any drug interactions are being managed or should be managed.
Medications other than those listed above may interact with this medication. Tell your doctor or prescriber about all prescription, over-the-counter (non-prescription), and herbal medications you are taking. Also tell them about any supplements you take. Since caffeine, alcohol, the nicotine from cigarettes, or street drugs can affect the action of many medications, you should let your prescriber know if you use them.
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