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

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

Epzicom pill


Epzicom can cause serious, life-threatening side effects. These include allergic reactions, buildup of lactic acid in the blood (lactic acidosis), 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 infection (HBV). 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 who have both HIV and hepatitis C virus infection (HCV) and 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 group of HIV drugs called nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs). NRTIs block an HIV enzyme called reverse transcriptase. 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 treatment 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 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 have 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. Do not stop taking Epzicom without talking with your health care provider.

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.)

What Should I Do if I Forget a Dose?

If you miss a dose of Epzicom, 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 Epzicom Cause?

Epzicom may cause side effects. Most side effects from HIV medicines, such as nausea or occasional dizziness, are manageable. See the AIDSinfo fact sheet on HIV Medicines and Side Effects for more information.

Some side effects of Epzicom can be serious. Serious side effects of Epzicom include allergic reactions, buildup of lactic acid in the blood (lactic acidosis), liver problems, and heart attack. (See the WARNING box above.)

Another possible side effect of Epzicom includes changes in your immune system (called immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome or IRIS). IRIS is a condition that sometimes occurs when the immune system begins to recover after treatment with an HIV medicine. As the immune system gets stronger, it may have an increased response to a previously hidden infection.

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. To learn more about possible side effects of Epzicom, read the drug label or package insert or talk to your health care provider or pharmacist.

You can report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088 (1-800-332-1088), or online.

How Should Epzicom Be Stored?

  • Store Epzicom between 59°F and 86°F (15°C to 30°C).
  • Do not use Epzicom if the original seal over the container opening is broken or missing.
  • Throw away Epzicom that is no longer needed or expired (out of date). Follow FDA guidelines on how to safely dispose of unused medicine.
  • Keep Epzicom and all medicines out of reach of children.

Where Can I Find More Information About Epzicom?

More information about Epzicom is available:

  • The Epzicom drug label, from DailyMed. The Patient Counseling Information section of the label includes information for people taking Epzicom.
  • Epzicom-related research studies, from the AIDS_info_ database of study summaries.
  • A list of FDA-approved HIV medicines, from AIDS_info_.

Manufacturer Information

ViiV Healthcare
Main number: 877-844-8872
Patient assistance (ViiV Connect): 844-588-3288

The above Patient Version drug summary is based on the following FDA label(s): Tablet (film coated).

[Note from TheBody: This article was created by AIDSinfo, who last updated it on July 30, 2018. We have cross-posted it with their permission.]