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Rebetol

Generic Name: ribavirin (oral) (rye ba VYE rin)
Brand Names: Rebetol, RibaPak, Ribasphere, RibaTab

Medically reviewed by P. Thornton, DipPharm Last updated on Oct 8, 2019.

What is Rebetol?

Rebetol (ribavirin) is an antiviral medication.

Rebetol is used to treat chronic hepatitis C in people 3 years and older with liver disease. It MUST be used together with an interferon alfa product (such as Pegasys, PegIntron, Sylatron, or Intron A).

It is not known if using Rebetol in children younger than 3 years old is safe or if it will work.

Important Information

You should not use Rebetol if you have autoimmune hepatitis, severe kidney disease, or a hemoglobin blood cell disorder.

Call your doctor at once if you have pale or yellowed skin, dark colored urine, fever, confusion, chest pain, weakness, or trouble breathing.

Rebetol is not effective when used alone. It must be used together with an interferon alfa product. You should not take Rebetol with didanosine.

Ribavirin can cause birth defects or death in an unborn baby. Do not use this medicine if you are pregnant, or if you are a man and your sexual partner is pregnant. Use 2 forms of birth control to prevent pregnancy while either sexual partner is taking Rebetol, and for at least 6 months after treatment ends. Tell your doctor right away if a pregnancy occurs while either the mother or the father is taking this medicine.

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 Rebetol if you are allergic to ribavirin, 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 Rebetol with peginterferon alfa-2a if you have:

To make sure this medicine is safe for you, 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 Rebetol 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 this medicine if your sex partner is pregnant.

  • Use at least 2 effective forms of birth control to prevent pregnancy while either sexual partner is taking Rebetol. 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 Rebetol.

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.

Rebetol is not approved for use by anyone younger than 3 years old.

How should I take Rebetol?

Take Rebetol exactly as prescribed by your doctor. Follow all directions on your prescription label and read all medication guides or instruction sheets.

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

Take Rebetol 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 Rebetol to keep from getting dehydrated.

Ribavirin can cause dry mouth, which could lead to tooth decay or gum disease. If you vomit while taking Rebetol, 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 the capsules at room temperature away from moisture, heat, and light.

Store the 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 Rebetol?

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

Using Rebetol 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.

Rebetol side effects

Get emergency medical help if you have signs of an allergic reaction to Rebetol: 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 Rebetol 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 Rebetol?

Tell your doctor about all your other medicines, especially:

This list is not complete. Other drugs may interact with 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 Rebetol 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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