Generic Name: abacavir (a BAK a veer)
Brand Name: Ziagen
What is Ziagen (abacavir)?
Abacavir is an antiviral medicine that prevents human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) from multiplying in your body.
Abacavir is used to treat HIV, the virus that can cause acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). This medicine is for adults and children who are at least 3 months old. Abacavir is not a cure for HIV or AIDS.
Abacavir may also be used for purposes not listed in this medication guide.
What is the most important information I should know about Ziagen (abacavir)?
You should not take this medicine if you have ever had an allergic reaction to any medicine that contains abacavir, or if you have moderate to severe liver disease.
Stop using abacavir and call your doctor at once if you have any of these signs of an allergic reaction: fever; rash; nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain; general ill feeling, extreme tiredness, body aches; shortness of breath, cough, sore throat.
This medicine 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.
Abacavir can also cause severe or life-threatening effects on your liver. Call your doctor at once if you have any of these symptoms while taking abacavir: pain in your upper stomach, itching, loss of appetite, dark urine, clay-colored stools, or jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes).
What should I discuss with my healthcare provider before taking Ziagen (abacavir)?
You should not use abacavir if you have had an allergic reaction to any medicine that contains abacavir (Ziagen, Epzicom, Triumeq, or Trizivir).
Abacavir can also cause severe or life-threatening effects on your liver. You should not take abacavir if you have moderate or severe liver disease.
Many combination HIV medicines have abacavir as an ingredient. Ziagen should not be taken together with any other medicine that contains abacavir.
Some people taking abacavir 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.
To make sure abacavir is safe for you, tell your doctor if you have:
heart disease, high blood pressure;
a gene variation called HLA-B*5701 allele (your doctor will test you for this);
a risk factor for heart disease such as smoking, diabetes, or high cholesterol; or
if you have used any other HIV medication in the past.
It is not known whether abacavir will harm an unborn baby. HIV can be passed to your baby if you are not properly treated during pregnancy. Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant during treatment. 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 abacavir on the baby.
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.
How should I take Ziagen (abacavir)?
Follow all directions on your prescription label. Do not take this medicine in larger or smaller amounts or for longer than recommended.
Abacavir comes with a Medication Guide and a Warning Card that lists the symptoms of an allergic reaction. Read this information carefully and carry the Warning Card with you at all times so you will know what symptoms to watch for.
Abacavir can be taken with or without food.
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.
While using abacavir, you may need frequent blood tests.
Use abacavir regularly to get the most benefit. Get your prescription refilled before you run out of medicine completely.
HIV/AIDS is usually treated with a combination of drugs. Use all medications as directed by your doctor. Read the medication guide or patient 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 at room temperature away from moisture and heat.
You may store the oral solution (liquid) in the refrigerator but do not let it freeze.
Read all patient information, medication guides, and instruction sheets provided to you. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions.
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.
Do not allow your medicine to run out completely before you get your prescription refilled. It is important that you not stop taking abacavir once you have started. If you miss several doses, you may have a dangerous or even fatal allergic reaction once you start taking abacavir again.
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 Ziagen (abacavir)?
Avoid drinking alcohol. It may increase your risk of liver damage.
Taking this medicine 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.
Ziagen (abacavir) side effects
Stop using abacavir and call your doctor at once if you have symptoms of an allergic reaction from two or more of these specific side effect groups:
Group 1 - fever;
Group 2 - rash;
Group 3 - nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain;
Group 4 - general ill feeling, extreme tiredness, body aches;
Group 5 - shortness of breath, cough, sore throat.
Once you have had an allergic reaction to abacavir, you must never use it again. If you stop taking abacavir for any reason, talk to your doctor before you start taking the medication again.
Abacavir can cause other serious side effects that may not be signs of an allergic reaction. Call your doctor at once if you have:
the first sign of any skin rash, no matter how mild;
chest pain or pressure, pain spreading to your jaw or shoulder;
severe pain in your upper stomach spreading to your back, nausea and vomiting, fast heart rate; or
liver problems--nausea, upper stomach pain, itching, tired feeling, loss of appetite, dark urine, clay-colored stools, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes).
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.
Abacavir 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 abacavir. Tell your doctor if you have:
signs of a new infection--fever, night sweats, swollen glands, mouth sores, diarrhea, stomach pain, weight loss;
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:
sleep problems, strange dreams;
nausea or vomiting;
changes in the shape or location of body fat (especially in your arms, legs, face, neck, breasts, and waist); or
(in children) stuffy nose, sneezing, sore throat, ear pain.
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 Ziagen (abacavir)?
Tell your doctor about all your current medicines and any you start or stop using, especially:
any other HIV medicines.
This list is not complete. Other drugs may interact with abacavir, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Not all possible interactions are listed in this medication guide.
More about Ziagen (abacavir)
Related treatment guides
Where can I get more information?
- Your pharmacist can provide more information about abacavir.
- 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.
- Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure that the information provided by Cerner Multum, Inc. ('Multum') is accurate, up-to-date, and complete, but no guarantee is made to that effect. Drug information contained herein may be time sensitive. Multum information has been compiled for use by healthcare practitioners and consumers in the United States and therefore Multum does not warrant that uses outside of the United States are appropriate, unless specifically indicated otherwise. Multum's drug information does not endorse drugs, diagnose patients or recommend therapy. Multum's drug information is an informational resource designed to assist licensed healthcare practitioners in caring for their patients and/or to serve consumers viewing this service as a supplement to, and not a substitute for, the expertise, skill, knowledge and judgment of healthcare practitioners. The absence of a warning for a given drug or drug combination in no way should be construed to indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective or appropriate for any given patient. Multum does not assume any responsibility for any aspect of healthcare administered with the aid of information Multum provides. The information contained herein is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. If you have questions about the drugs you are taking, check with your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.
Copyright 1996-2012 Cerner Multum, Inc. Version: 10.05.
Date modified: October 14, 2016
Last reviewed: May 13, 2016