Medically reviewed on May 30, 2017
What is lamivudine?
Epivir is for treating HIV, the virus that can cause acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Epivir is not a cure for HIV or AIDS.
Epivir-HBV is for treating hepatitis B. Epivir-HBV should not be used in people who are infected with both hepatitis B and HIV.
Lamivudine may also be used for purposes not listed in this medication guide.
You should not take Epivir-HBV (for treating hepatitis B) if you also take other medicine that contains lamivudine or emtricitabine. This includes Atripla, Combivir, Complera, Emtriva, Epzicom, Stribild, Trizivir, and Truvada.
Lamivudine may cause a serious condition called lactic acidosis. Get emergency medical help if you have even mild symptoms such as: muscle pain or weakness, numb or cold feeling in your arms and legs, trouble breathing, stomach pain, nausea with vomiting, fast or uneven heart rate, dizziness, or feeling very weak or tired.
Lamivudine can also cause severe or life-threatening effects on your liver or pancreas. Call your doctor at once if you have: severe pain in your upper stomach spreading to your back, nausea, loss of appetite, dark urine, clay-colored stools, or jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes).
If you have hepatitis B you may develop liver symptoms after you stop taking lamivudine. Your liver function may need to be checked for several months after you stop using lamivudine.
Before taking this medicine
You should not take lamivudine if you are allergic to it.
You should not take Epivir-HBV (for treating hepatitis B) if you also take other medicine that contains lamivudine or emtricitabine, which includes:
Combivir (lamivudine and zidovudine);
Complera (rilpivirine, emtricitabine, and tenofovir);
Epzicom (abacavir and lamivudine);
Trizivir (abacavir, lamivudine, and zidovudine); and
Truvada (emtricitabine and tenofovir).
To make sure lamivudine is safe for you, tell your doctor if you have ever had:
if you used any HIV/AIDS medicine in the past.
Some people taking lamivudine develop a serious condition called lactic acidosis. This may be more likely in women, in people who are overweight or have liver disease, and in people who have taken HIV/AIDS medication for a long time. Talk with your doctor about your risk.
If you have diabetes, you should know that the liquid forms of lamivudine contain 3 to 4 grams of sucrose (sugar) per dose.
It is not known whether lamivudine will harm an unborn baby. Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant.
HIV can be passed to your baby if you are not properly treated during pregnancy. If you have HIV, take all of your HIV medicines as directed to control your infection.
If you are pregnant, your name may be listed on a pregnancy registry. This is to track the outcome of the pregnancy and to evaluate any effects of lamivudine on the baby.
Lamivudine can pass into breast milk and may harm a nursing baby. You should not breast-feed while you are using lamivudine to treat hepatitis B. Women with HIV or AIDS should not breast feed a baby. Even if your baby is born without HIV, the virus may be passed to the baby in your breast milk.
Lamivudine is not approved for use by anyone younger than 2 years old.
How should I take lamivudine?
Follow all directions on your prescription label. Do not take this medicine in larger or smaller amounts or for longer than recommended. You should not take Epivir (for treating HIV) together with Epivir-HBV (for treating hepatitis B).
Lamivudine can be taken with or without food.
You may need to break an Epivir tablet in half when giving this medicine to a child for HIV. Call your doctor if the child has any trouble swallowing the tablet.
If a child is using this medicine, tell your doctor if the child has any changes in weight. Lamivudine doses are based on weight in children, and any changes may affect your child's dose. Children who weigh more than 30 pounds (14 kilograms) should use the tablet form of lamivudine if possible. Lamivudine liquid may not be as effective.
Measure liquid medicine with the dosing syringe provided, or with a special dose-measuring spoon or medicine cup. If you do not have a dose-measuring device, ask your pharmacist for one.
The Epivir brand contains a higher dose of lamivudine than Epivir-HBV brand. Epivir is for treating HIV and Epivir-HBV is for treating hepatitis B. Each time you get a refill of this medication, be sure you have received the correct brand to treat your condition.
While using lamivudine, you may need frequent blood tests. Your kidney and liver function may also need to be checked. You may also need to have frequent HIV testing. If you become infected with HIV while you are taking lamivudine to treat hepatitis, the HIV could become resistant to antiviral medicines if not treated right away.
HIV/AIDS is usually treated with a combination of drugs. Use all medications as directed by your doctor. Read the instructions provided with each medication. Do not change your doses or medication schedule without your doctor's advice. Every person with HIV or AIDS should remain under the care of a doctor.
Store lamivudine at room temperature away from moisture and heat. Do not freeze. Keep the bottle tightly closed when not in use.
If you have hepatitis B you may develop liver symptoms after you stop taking lamivudine. Your doctor may want to check your liver function for several months after you stop using this medicine.
What happens if I miss a dose?
Take the missed dose as soon as you remember. Skip the missed dose if it is almost time for your next scheduled dose. Do not take extra medicine to make up the missed dose.
What happens if I overdose?
Seek emergency medical attention or call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222.
What should I avoid while taking lamivudine?
Taking lamivudine will not prevent you from passing HIV to other people. Do not have unprotected sex or share razors or toothbrushes. Talk with your doctor about safe ways to prevent HIV transmission during sex. Sharing drug or medicine needles is never safe, even for a healthy person.
Lamivudine side effects
Get emergency medical help if you have signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficult breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.
Early symptoms of lactic acidosis may get worse over time and this condition can be fatal. Get emergency medical help if you have even mild symptoms: muscle pain or weakness, numb or cold feeling in your arms and legs, trouble breathing, stomach pain, nausea with vomiting, fast or uneven heart rate, dizziness, or feeling very weak or tired.
Call your doctor at once if you have:
liver problems--nausea, right-sided stomach pain, itching, tired feeling, loss of appetite, dark urine, clay-colored stools, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes).
Lamivudine may increase your risk of certain infections or autoimmune disorders by changing the way your immune system works. Symptoms may occur weeks or months after you start treatment with lamivudine. Tell your doctor if you have:
chest pain (especially when you breathe), dry cough, wheezing, feeling short of breath;
cold sores, sores on your genital or anal area;
rapid heart rate, feeling anxious or irritable, weakness or prickly feeling, problems with balance or eye movement;
trouble speaking or swallowing, severe lower back pain, loss of bladder or bowel control; or
swelling in your neck or throat (enlarged thyroid), menstrual changes, impotence, loss of interest in sex.
Common side effects may include:
changes in the shape or location of body fat (especially in your arms, legs, face, neck, breasts, and waist);
fever, tiredness, general ill feeling;
ear infection--ear pain or full feeling, trouble hearing, drainage from the ear; or
nose or throat infection--stuffy nose, sneezing, sore throat, cough.
This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.
See also: Side effects (in more detail)
What other drugs will affect lamivudine?
Other drugs may interact with lamivudine, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Some drugs should not be used together with lamivudine. Tell your doctor about all your current medicines and any medicine you start or stop using.
Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use this medication only for the indication prescribed.
Copyright 1996-2018 Cerner Multum, Inc. Version: 11.01.
More about lamivudine
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- Drug class: nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs)