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An Overview of Emtriva (Emtricitabine)

August 23, 2013

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Emtriva 200 mgEmtriva Bottle

Brand Name: Emtriva
Other Name(s): FTC
Drug Class: Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors
Approved Use: Treatment of HIV Infection


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

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

  • Feeling very weak or tired.
  • Unusual (not normal) muscle pain.
  • Trouble breathing.
  • Stomach pain with nausea and vomiting.
  • Feeling cold, especially in the 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 may signal 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 in the lower stomach (abdominal) area.

Emtricitabine is not approved for the treatment of hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection. People infected with HBV who take emtricitabine and then stop taking it may get severe worsening of their HBV infections.

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

What is emtricitabine?


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

Emtricitabine is a type of anti-HIV medicine called a nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NRTI). NRTIs work by blocking HIV reverse transcriptase, an HIV enzyme. This prevents HIV from replicating and lowers the amount of HIV in the blood.

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

Emtricitabine can also be used "off-label" to treat hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection, an opportunistic infection of HIV infection.

  • "Off-label" use refers to use of an FDA-approved medicine in a manner different from that described on the medicine label. Good medical practice and the best interests of a patient sometimes require that a medicine be used "off-label."
  • An opportunistic infection is an infection that occurs more frequently or is more severe in people with weakened immune systems -- such as those infected with HIV -- than in people with healthy immune systems.

The Guidelines for the Prevention and Treatment of Opportunistic Infections in HIV-Infected Adults and Adolescents, prepared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the HIV Medicine Association of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA-HIVMA), includes recommendations for the "off-label" use of emtricitabine to treat HBV infection in people who are also receiving combination antiretroviral therapy (ART) for HIV infection. In addition to emtricitabine, the ART regimen should include another drug that is effective against both HBV and HIV. Emtricitabine should not be used to treat HBV in HIV-infected individuals who are not receiving ART.

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

Before taking emtricitabine, tell your health care provider:

  • If you are allergic to emtricitabine or any other medicines.
  • If you have kidney problems.
  • If you have any liver problems, including HBV infection.
  • About any medical problems (including past medical problems).
  • If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. Whether emtricitabine 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 emtricitabine.
  • About other prescription and nonprescription medicines, vitamins, nutritional supplements, and herbal products you are taking or plan to take. Emtricitabine may affect the way other medicines or products work, and other medicines and products may affect how emtricitabine works. Taking emtricitabine together with certain medicines or products may cause serious side effects.
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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 FTC (Emtricitabine, Emtriva)