Brand Name: Ziagen
Other Name(s): ABC, abacavir sulfate
Drug Class: Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors
Abacavir can cause serious, life-threatening side effects. These include a serious allergic reaction, a buildup of lactic acid in the blood (lactic acidosis), and liver problems.
People who take abacavir 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 abacavir, contact your health care provider right away to find out if you should stop taking abacavir.
- 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, or 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 abacavir because of an allergic reaction, never take abacavir or any other abacavir-containing medicine again. (The combination HIV medicines abacavir/lamivudine [brand name: Epzicom], abacavir/lamivudine/zidovudine [brand name: Trizivir], and abacavir/dolutegravir/lamivudine [brand name: Triumeq] also contain abacavir.)
If you take abacavir or any other abacavir-containing medicine again after you have had an allergic reaction, within hours you may get life-threatening symptoms that may include very low blood pressure or death. If you stop abacavir for any other reason, even for a few days, and you are not allergic to abacavir, talk with your health care provider before taking it again. Taking abacavir again can cause a serious allergic or life-threatening reaction, even if you never had an allergic reaction to it before. If your health care provider tells you that you can take abacavir 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 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
- Feeling sick to your stomach (nausea)
- Pain, aching, or tenderness on the right side of your stomach area
While taking abacavir, it is important to keep all of your appointments with your health care provider.
What Is Abacavir?
Abacavir 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. Abacavir is always used in combination with other HIV medicines.
Abacavir 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.
What Should I Tell My Health Care Provider Before Taking Abacavir?
Before taking abacavir, tell your health care provider:
- If you are allergic to abacavir 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 had hepatitis B virus (HBV) or hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection or other liver 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 are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. Taking abacavir during pregnancy has not been associated with an increased risk of birth defects. Talk to your health care provider about possible risks with taking abacavir when pregnant.
- If you are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. Do not breastfeed if you are infected with HIV or are taking abacavir.
- 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. Abacavir may affect the way other medicines or products work, and other medicines or products may affect how abacavir works. Taking abacavir together with certain medicines or products may cause serious side effects.
- Especially tell your health care provider if you drink alcohol or take medicines that contain alcohol, take methadone, or take combination HIV medicines that contain abacavir (abacavir/lamivudine [brand name: Epzicom], abacavir/lamivudin/zidovudine [brand name: Trizivir], or abacavir/dolutegravir/lamivudine [brand name: Triumeq]).
How Should I Take Abacavir?
Abacavir (brand name: Ziagen) comes in the following forms and strengths:
- 300-mg tablets.
- 20-mg/mL oral solution (a strawberry banana-flavored liquid available for children and adults who can't swallow tablets).
Take abacavir according to your health care provider's instructions.
Take abacavir with or without food.
Always take abacavir in combination with other anti-HIV medicines.
Children 3 months of age and older can take abacavir. The child's health care provider will decide the right dose of abacavir based on the child's weight. The dose should not be more than the recommended adult dose. The health care provider will also decide whether the child should take the tablet or liquid form of abacavir.
If you take too much abacavir, 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 abacavir, 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 abacavir, 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.
If you stop abacavir because of an allergic reaction, never take abacavir or any other abacavir-containing medicine again. If you take abacavir or any other abacavir-containing medicine again after you have had an allergic reaction, within hours you may get life-threatening symptoms that may include very low blood pressure or death.
If you stop abacavir for any other reason, even for a few days, and you are not allergic to abacavir, talk with your health care provider before taking it again. Taking abacavir again can cause a serious allergic or life-threatening reaction, even if you never had an allergic reaction to it before. If your health care provider tells you that you can take abacavir again, start taking it when you are around medical help or people who can call a health care provider if you need one.
What Side Effects Can Abacavir Cause?
Abacavir may cause side effects. Many 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 abacavir can be serious. Serious side effects of abacavir include allergic reactions, a buildup of acid in the blood (lactic acidosis), and liver problems. (See the WARNING box above.)
Other possible side effects of abacavir 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.
- Changes in body fat (including gain or loss of fat).
- Increased risk of heart attack (myocardial infarction).
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 abacavir. To learn more about possible side effects of abacavir, 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 www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/medwatch/.
How Should Abacavir Be Stored?
- Do not use abacavir if the original seal over the container opening is broken or missing.
- Store abacavir at room temperature, 68°F to 77°F (20°C to 25°C).
- Abacavir oral solution may be refrigerated, but do not freeze the abacavir solution.
- Throw away abacavir that is no longer needed or expired (out of date). Follow FDA guidelines on how to safely dispose of unused medicines.
- Keep abacavir and all medicines out of reach of children.
Where Can I Find More Information About Abacavir?
More information about abacavir is available:
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): Solution, tablet (film coated).
[Note from TheBody.com: This article was created by AIDSinfo, who last updated it on Jan. 3, 2018. We have cross-posted it with their permission.]