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

September 2, 2016

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Brand Name: Epzicom
Other Name(s): abacavir sulfate/lamivudine, ABC/3TC
Drug Class: Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors
Approved Use: Treatment of HIV Infection

Chemical Images:

abacavir sulfate

abacavir sulfate
Molecular Weight: 670.7522


Molecular Weight: 229.2589


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

People who take abacavir, an 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, 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 taking Epzicom due to an allergic reaction, never take Epzicom or any other abacavir-containing medicine again; if you do, life-threatening symptoms (including very low blood pressure) or death may occur within hours. 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 did not have 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 could be signs of lactic acidosis:

  • Feeling very weak or tired.
  • Unusual (not normal) muscle pain.
  • Trouble breathing.
  • Stomach pain with nausea and vomiting.
  • Feeling cold, especially in your arms and legs.
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded.
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat.

Contact your health care provider right away if you have any of the following symptoms that could be signs of 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.
  • Pain, aching, or tenderness on the right side of your stomach area.

Epzicom is not approved for the treatment of hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection. If you have both HIV and HBV infection and take Epzicom, your HBV infection may get worse (flare up) if you stop taking Epzicom.

Worsening of liver disease (sometimes resulting in death) has occurred in people infected with both HIV and hepatitis C virus (HCV) who are taking HIV medicines and are also being treated for HCV with interferon with or without ribavirin. If you are taking Epzicom as well as interferon with or without ribavirin and you experience new side effects, tell your health care provider.

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 and children who weigh at least 55 pounds (25 kg). Epzicom is always used in combination with other HIV medicines.

Epzicom contains the following two different medicines combined in one pill:

  • Abacavir -- an HIV medicine called a nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NRTI).
  • Lamivudine -- another HIV medicine (also an NRTI).

Both of the medicines in Epzicom (abacavir and lamivudine) belong to a class (group) of HIV drugs called nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs). NRTIs block an HIV enzyme called reverse transcriptase. (An enzyme is a protein that starts or increases the speed of a chemical reaction.) By blocking reverse transcriptase, the two drugs in combination prevent HIV from multiplying and can reduce the amount of HIV in the body.

HIV medicines can't cure HIV/AIDS, but taking a combination of HIV medicines (called an HIV regimen) every day helps people with HIV live longer, healthier lives. HIV medicines also reduce the risk of HIV transmission.

What Should I Tell My Health Care Provider Before Taking Epzicom?

Before taking Epzicom, tell your health care provider:

  • If you are allergic to either of the HIV medicines in Epzicom (abacavir or 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 or have ever had liver problems, including HBV or HCV infection.
  • 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 have any other medical conditions.
  • If you drink alcohol or take medicines that contain alcohol.
  • If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. Taking Epzicom during pregnancy has not been associated with an increased risk of birth defects. Talk to your health care provider about possible risks with taking Epzicom when pregnant.
  • If you are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. Do not breastfeed if you are infected with HIV or are taking Epzicom.
  • If you are using hormone-based birth control (such as pills, implants, or vaginal rings). For more information about using birth control and HIV medicines at the same time, view the AIDSinfo HIV and Birth Control infographic.
  • About other prescription and nonprescription medicines, vitamins, nutritional supplements, and herbal products you are taking or plan to take. Especially tell your doctor if you are taking any other HIV medicines, any medicines used to treat hepatitis (such as interferon with or without ribavirin), or methadone. 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, life-threatening side effects.

How Should I Take Epzicom?

Epzicom comes in tablet form. Each tablet contains:

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

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

Take Epzicom with or without food. Do not skip doses.

Always take Epzicom in combination with other HIV medicines.

Don't run out of Epzicom. Refill your prescription when your supply gets low.

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

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.)

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This article was provided by AIDSinfo. Visit the AIDSinfo website to find out more about their activities and publications.

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