An Overview of Emtriva (Emtricitabine)

Brand Name: Emtriva
Other Name(s): FTC
Drug Class: Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors

Emtriva (Emtricitabine)


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

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 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 could be signs of 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 chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection. If you have both HIV and HBV infection and take emtricitabine, your HBV infection may get much worse (flare up) if you stop taking emtricitabine. Do not stop taking emtricitabine without first talking with your health care provider. If your health care provider tells you to stop emtricitabine, you will be monitored closely for several months to check your HBV infection. You may receive a medicine to treat your HBV infection.

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. While emtricitabine is approved for all ages, it has not been studied fully in adults over age 65. Clinical trials studying emtricitabine have not included enough people over age 65 in order to determine if they respond differently than people younger than age 65. Emtricitabine is always used in combination with other HIV medicines.

Emtricitabine belongs 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, NRTIs 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. If you are taking HIV medicines, including emtricitabine, don't cut down on, skip, or stop taking them unless your health care provider tells you to.

Because emtricitabine is also effective against hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection, it may be included in an HIV regimen to treat HBV infection in people with HIV. In addition to emtricitabine, the HIV regimen should include another drug that is effective against both HBV and HIV. Emtricitabine should not be used to treat HBV infection in people with HIV who are not receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART). For information on the HBV-related use of emtricitabine, please refer to the HBV section of the Guidelines for the Prevention and Treatment of Opportunistic Infections in HIV-Infected Adults and Adolescents.

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.
  • If you have any other medical conditions.
  • If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. Whether emtricitabine can harm an unborn baby is unknown. Emtricitabine should be used during pregnancy only if clearly needed. Talk to your health care provider about possible risks with taking emtricitabine when pregnant.
  • If you are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. Do not breastfeed if you have HIV or are taking emtricitabine.
  • 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 AIDS_info_ HIV and Birth Control infographic.
  • 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 or products may affect how emtricitabine works. Taking emtricitabine together with certain medicines or products may cause serious side effects.

How Should I Take Emtricitabine?

Emtricitabine (brand name: Emtriva) comes in the following forms and strengths:

  • 200-mg capsules
  • 10-mg/mL oral solution. An oral solution is a mixture of a medicine and a liquid that can be taken by mouth.

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

Take emtricitabine by mouth, with or without food.

Always take emtricitabine in combination with other HIV medicines.

If you take too much emtricitabine, 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 emtricitabine, 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 emtricitabine, 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 more than 1 dose of emtricitabine in a day. Do not take 2 doses at the same time to make up for a missed dose.

What Side Effects Can Emtricitabine Cause?

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

Some side effects of emtricitabine can be serious. Serious side effects of emtricitabine include a buildup of lactic acid in the blood (lactic acidosis) and serious liver problems. If you have HBV, you may have sudden worsening (a flare up) of your HBV infection if you stop taking emtricitabine. (See the WARNING box above.)

Other possible side effects of emtricitabine include:

  • 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.
  • Skin discoloration.

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 emtricitabine. To learn more about possible side effects of emtricitabine, 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 at

How Should Emtricitabine Be Stored?

  • Store emtricitabine capsules between 59°F and 86°F (15°C to 30°C).
  • Store emtricitabine oral solution in a refrigerator, between 36°F and 46°F (2°C to 8°C). Do not freeze the oral solution. Or store emtricitabine oral solution at room temperature for up to 3 months. After the 3 months, throw away any remaining solution in the bottle.
  • Do not use emtricitabine if the original seal over the container opening is broken or missing.
  • Throw away emtricitabine that is no longer needed or expired (out of date). Follow FDA guidelines on how to safely dispose of unused medicine.
  • Keep emtricitabine and all medicines out of reach of children.

Where Can I Find More Information About Emtricitabine?

More information about emtricitabine is available:

Manufacturer Information

Gilead Sciences, Inc.
Main number: 800-445-3235
Patient assistance: 800-226-2056

The above Patient Version drug summary is based on the following FDA label(s): Capsule, solution.

[Note from This article was created by AIDSinfo, who last updated it on Nov. 6, 2017. We have cross-posted it with their permission.]