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Ribavirin

Generic Name: ribavirin (oral) (rye ba VYE rin)
Brand Name: Rebetol, RibaPak, Ribasphere, RibaTab, ...show all 12 brand names

Medically reviewed by Drugs.com on Aug 21, 2019 – Written by Cerner Multum

What is ribavirin?

Ribavirin is an antiviral medication.

Ribavirin must be used together with an interferon alfa product (such as Pegasys, PegIntron, Sylatron, or Intron A) to treat chronic hepatitis C.

Ribavirin may also be used for purposes not listed in this medication guide.

Important Information

You should not use ribavirin if you have autoimmune hepatitis, severe kidney disease, a hemoglobin blood cell disorder, or if you take didanosine (Videx).

Ribavirin is not effective when used alone. It must be used together with an interferon alfa product.

Ribavirin can harm an unborn baby or cause birth defects if the mother or the father is using ribavirin. Either parent should use at least 2 forms of effective birth control while taking ribavirin and for at least 6 months after the last dose.

In rare cases, ribavirin can cause fatal heart problems. Get emergency medical attention if you have chest pain.

Before taking this medicine

You should not take ribavirin if you are allergic to it, or if you have:

  • a hemoglobin blood cell disorder such as sickle-cell anemia or thalassemia;

  • autoimmune hepatitis;

  • severe kidney disease;

  • if you are also taking didanosine (Videx); or

  • if you are pregnant, or if you are a man whose sex partner is pregnant.

You should not take ribavirin with peginterferon alfa-2a if you have:

Tell your doctor if you have ever had:

  • a blood cell disorder such as anemia (low red blood cells);

  • heart problems, high blood pressure, or heart attack;

  • breathing problems;

  • vision problems;

  • diabetes;

  • human immunodeficiency virus (HIV or AIDS) or a weak immune system;

  • depression, mental illness, or suicide attempt;

  • drug addiction;

  • a thyroid disorder;

  • kidney disease;

  • an organ transplant;

  • liver problems other than hepatitis C; or

  • treatment for hepatitis C that did not work well.

Ribavirin can harm an unborn baby or cause birth defects if the mother or the father is using this medicine.

  • If you are a woman, do not take ribavirin if you are pregnant. You will need to have a negative pregnancy test before taking ribavirin. You will also need pregnancy tests during treatment and for 6 months after your last dose.

  • If you are a man, do not take ribavirin if your sex partner is pregnant.

  • Use at least 2 effective forms of birth control to prevent pregnancy while either sexual partner is taking ribavirin. Keep using 2 forms of birth control for at least 6 months after your last dose.

  • Tell your doctor right away if a pregnancy occurs while either the mother or the father is taking ribavirin.

If a pregnancy occurs, your name may be listed on a pregnancy registry to track the effects of ribavirin on the baby.

You should not breastfeed while using ribavirin.

Ribavirin is not approved for use by anyone younger than 3 years old. Ribavirin tablets are not approved for use by anyone younger than 5 years old.

How should I take ribavirin?

Follow all directions on your prescription label and read all medication guides or instruction sheets. Use the medicine exactly as directed.

Ribavirin is not effective when used alone to treat hepatitis C. It must be used together with an interferon alfa product.

Take ribavirin with food.

Swallow the capsule whole and do not crush, chew, break, or open it. Tell your doctor if you have trouble swallowing the capsule.

Measure liquid medicine carefully. Use the dosing syringe provided, or use a medicine dose-measuring device (not a kitchen spoon).

Drink extra fluids while you are taking ribavirin to keep from getting dehydrated.

Ribavirin can cause dry mouth, which could lead to tooth decay or gum disease. If you vomit while taking ribavirin, rinse your mouth out with water to prevent damage to your teeth or gums. Be sure to have regular dental exams while you are taking this medication.

You will need frequent medical tests.

Store ribavirin tablets or capsules at room temperature away from moisture, heat, and light.

Store ribavirin liquid (oral solution) at room temperature or in the refrigerator. Do not allow it to freeze.

What happens if I miss a dose?

Take the missed dose on the same day you remember it. Skip the missed dose if it is almost time for your next dose. Do not take two doses at one time.

Get your prescription refilled before you run out of medicine completely.

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 ribavirin?

Avoid drinking alcohol. It may increase your risk of liver damage.

Using ribavirin will not prevent you from passing hepatitis to other people. Follow your doctor's instructions about how to prevent passing the disease to another person.

Ribavirin side effects

Get emergency medical help if you have signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficulty breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Ribavirin can cause anemia. In rare cases, this can lead to fatal heart problems. Get emergency medical attention if you have chest pain.

Call your doctor at once if you have:

  • problems with your vision;

  • severe pain in your upper stomach spreading to your back, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea;

  • new or worsening cough, fever, stabbing chest pain, wheezing, feeling short of breath;

  • severe depression, thoughts about suicide, or thoughts about hurting someone else;

  • signs of serious anemia--pale or yellowed skin, dark colored urine, confusion or weakness; or

  • other signs of low blood cell counts--fever, chills, flu-like symptoms, swollen gums, mouth sores, skin sores, easy bruising, unusual bleeding, feeling light-headed.

Ribavirin can affect growth in children. Tell your doctor if your child is not growing at a normal rate while using this medicine.

Common side effects may include:

  • nausea, flu-like symptoms, feeling weak or tired;

  • low white blood cell counts;

  • fever, chills or shaking;

  • headache;

  • mood changes, feeling anxious or irritable, trouble sleeping;

  • muscle pain;

  • vomiting, loss of appetite; or

  • itching, hair loss.

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.

What other drugs will affect ribavirin?

Tell your doctor about all your other medicines, especially:

This list is not complete. Other drugs may affect ribavirin, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Not all possible drug interactions are listed here.

Further information

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.

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

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