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An Overview of Epzicom (Abacavir/3TC, Kivexa)

October 23, 2013

a-BAK-a-veer, la-MI-vyoo-deen


Brand Name: Epzicom
Other Name(s): ABC/3TC, Abacavir sulfate/Lamivudine
Drug Class: Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors


Epzicom can cause serious, life-threatening side effects. These include allergic reactions, lactic acidosis (buildup of acid in the blood), and liver problems.

People who take abacavir, an anti-HIV medicine included in Epzicom, may have a serious allergic reaction (hypersensitivity reaction) that can cause death. Your risk of this allergic reaction is much higher if you have a gene variation called HLA-B*5701. Your health care provider can determine with a blood test if you have this gene variation. If you get a symptom from two or more of the following groups while taking Epzicom, contact your health care provider right away to find out if you should stop taking Epzicom.

  • Group 1 Symptoms: Fever
  • Group 2 Symptoms: Rash.
  • Group 3 Symptoms: Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal (stomach area) pain.
  • Group 4 Symptoms: General ill feeling, extreme tiredness, or achiness.
  • Group 5 Symptoms: Shortness of breath, cough, sore throat.

Your pharmacist will give you a Warning Card with a list of these symptoms. Carry this Warning Card with you at all times. If you stop Epzicom because of an allergic reaction, never take Epzicom or any other abacavir-containing medicine again. If you take Epzicom or any other abacavir-containing medicine again after you have had an allergic reaction, within hours you may get life-threatening symptoms that may include very low blood pressure or death. If you stop Epzicom for any other reason, even for a few days, and you are not allergic to Epzicom, talk with your health care provider before taking it again. Taking Epzicom again can cause a serious allergic or life-threatening reaction, even if you never had an allergic reaction to it before. If your health care provider tells you that you can take Epzicom again, start taking it when you are around medical help or people who can call a health care provider if you need one.

Contact your health care provider right away if you have any of the following symptoms that may signal lactic acidosis:

  • Weakness or tiredness.
  • Unusual muscle pain.
  • Trouble breathing.
  • Stomach pain with nausea and vomiting.
  • Feeling cold, especially in your arms and legs.
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness.
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat.

Contact your health care provider right away if you have any of the following symptoms that may signal serious liver problems:

  • Yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes (jaundice).
  • Dark-colored urine.
  • Light-colored bowel movements.
  • Loss of appetite for several days or longer.
  • Nausea.
  • Lower stomach area (abdominal) pain.

Worsening of liver disease has occurred in some people co-infected with hepatitis B virus (HBV) and HIV when they stopped treatment with lamivudine, an anti-HIV medicine included in Epzicom. Worsening of liver disease, sometimes causing death, has also occurred in people co-infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV) and HIV who were taking anti-HIV medicines and also being treated for HCV with interferon with or without ribavirin. Tell your health care provider about any side effects you have.

Epzicom may increase the risk of heart attack (myocardial infarction).

While taking Epzicom, it is important to keep all of your appointments with your health care provider.

What is Epzicom?

Epzicom is a prescription medicine approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of HIV infection in adults. Epzicom is always used in combination with other anti-HIV medicines.

Epzicom contains the following two anti-HIV medicines combined in one pill: abacavir and lamivudine. Abacavir and lamivudine are both types of anti-HIV medicines called nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs). The two drugs in combination help block HIV reverse transcriptase, an HIV enzyme. This prevents HIV from replicating and lowers the amount of HIV in the blood.

Epzicom does not cure HIV/AIDS. It is not known if Epzicom reduces the risk of passing HIV to other people.

What should I tell my health care provider before taking Epzicom?

Before taking Epzicom, tell your health care provider:

  • If you are allergic to abacavir, lamivudine, or any other medicines.
  • If you have been tested and know whether or not you have a particular gene variation called HLA-B*5701.
  • If you have HBV infection or have other liver problems.
  • If you have kidney problems.
  • If you have heart problems, smoke, or have diseases that increase your risk of heart disease, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes.
  • If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. Whether Epzicom can harm an unborn baby is unknown.
  • If you are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. Do not breastfeed if you are infected with HIV or are taking Epzicom.
  • About other prescription and nonprescription medicines, vitamins, nutritional supplements, and herbal products you are taking or plan to take. Epzicom may affect the way other medicines or products work, and other medicines or products may affect how Epzicom works. Taking Epzicom together with certain medicines or products may cause serious and/or life-threatening side effects.

How should I take Epzicom?

Epzicom comes in tablet form. Each tablet contains:

  • 600 mg of abacavir sulfate (brand name: Ziagen).
  • 300 mg of lamivudine (brand name: Epivir).

Take Epzicom according to your health care provider's instructions.

Take Epzicom with or without food.

If you take too much Epzicom, contact your local poison control center (1-800-222-1222) or go to the nearest hospital emergency room right away.

For more information on how to take Epzicom, see the FDA drug label from DailyMed. (DailyMed is a federal website that includes the most recent drug labels submitted to FDA.)

What should I do if I forget a dose?

If you forget a dose, contact your health care provider or pharmacist right away.

What side effects can Epzicom cause?

Epzicom can cause serious, life-threatening side effects. These include allergic reactions, lactic acidosis (buildup of acid in the blood), and liver problems. (See the WARNING above.)

Other possible side effects of Epzicom include:

  • Changes in the immune system (immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome).
  • Changes in body fat (lipodystrophy).

Tell your health care provider if you have any side effect that bothers you or that does not go away.

These are not all the possible side effects of Epzicom. Ask your health care provider or pharmacist for more information on side effects of Epzicom.

How should Epzicom be stored?

  • Store Epzicom between 59°F and 86°F (15°C to 30°C).
  • Keep Epzicom and all medicines out of reach of children.

Where can I find more information about Epzicom?

More information about Epzicom is available:

Manufacturer Information


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This article was provided by AIDSinfo. Visit the AIDSinfo website to find out more about their activities and publications.
See Also
More on HIV Medications
More on Epzicom (Abacavir/3TC, Kivexa)