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An Overview of Epivir (3TC, Lamivudine)

August 23, 2013


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Brand Name: Epivir
Other Name(s): 3TC
Drug Class: Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors
Approved Use: Treatment of HIV Infection


Lamivudine can cause serious, life-threatening side effects. These include lactic acidosis (buildup of acid in the blood), severe liver problems, and pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) in children at risk for pancreatitis.

Contact your health care provider right away if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Nausea.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Excessive tiredness.
  • Weakness.
  • Dark-colored urine.
  • Unusual bleeding or bruising.
  • Flu-like symptoms.
  • Yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes (jaundice).
  • Pain in the upper right part of your stomach.

Severe worsening of liver disease has occurred in some people co-infected with hepatitis B virus (HBV) and HIV when they stopped treatment with lamivudine. Tell your health care provider about any new or unusual symptoms after you stop taking lamivudine.


Epivir-HBV is a type of lamivudine used to treat HBV infection. You should not take Epivir-HBV if you have or may have HIV infection. Epivir-HBV does not contain an appropriate dose of lamivudine for treatment of HIV infection, and using Epivir-HBV could cause a person's HIV to become less treatable with lamivudine and some other drugs.

Worsening of liver disease, sometimes causing death, has 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.

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

What is lamivudine?

Lamivudine is a prescription medicine approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of HIV infection in adults and children 3 months of age and older. Lamivudine is always used in combination with other anti-HIV medicines.

Lamivudine 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.

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

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

Before taking lamivudine, tell your health care provider:

  • If you are allergic to lamivudine or any other medicines.
  • If you have or have had liver problems, including HBV or HCV infection.
  • If you have or have had kidney disease.
  • If you have or have had pancreatitis (in children only).
  • If you have any other medical conditions.
  • If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. Whether lamivudine 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 lamivudine.
  • About other prescription and nonprescription medicines, vitamins, nutritional supplements, and herbal products you are taking or plan to take. Lamivudine may affect the way other medicines or products work, and other medicines or products may affect how lamivudine works. Taking lamivudine together with certain medicines or products may cause serious and/or life-threatening side effects.

How should I take lamivudine?

Lamivudine comes in the following forms and strengths:

  • 150-mg tablets (brand name: Epivir).
  • 300-mg tablets (brand name: Epivir).
  • 10-mg/mL oral solution (brand name: Epivir).

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

Always take lamivudine in combination with other anti-HIV medicines.

If you take too much lamivudine, 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 lamivudine, 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?

Take the missed dose as soon as you remember it. But if it is almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and just take your next dose at the regular time. Do not take two doses at the same time to make up for a missed dose.

What side effects can lamivudine cause?

Lamivudine can cause serious, life-threatening side effects. These include lactic acidosis (buildup of acid in the blood), severe liver problems, pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) in children at risk for pancreatitis. (See the WARNING above.)

Other possible side effects of lamivudine include:

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

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 lamivudine. Ask your health care provider or pharmacist for more information on possible side effects of lamivudine.

How should lamivudine be stored?

  • Store lamivudine tablets at 59°F to 86°F (15°C to 30°C).
  • Store lamivudine oral solution at 68°F to 77°F (20°C to 25°C).
  • Keep the bottle tightly closed.
  • Safely throw away lamivudine that is no longer needed or expired (out of date).
  • Keep lamivudine and all medicines out of reach of children.

Where can I find more information about lamivudine?

More information about lamivudine 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 Epivir (3TC, Lamivudine)