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Generic name: ribavirin (oral) [ RYE-ba-VYE-rin ]
Drug classes: Inhaled anti-infectives, Purine nucleosides

Medically reviewed by Philip Thornton, DipPharm. Last updated on Aug 23, 2023.

What is Rebetol?

Rebetol is an antiviral medication that is used to treat chronic hepatitis C.

Rebetol is not effective when used alone. This medicine must be used in combination with interferon alfa or peginterferon alfa.

Rebetol is sometimes given to people taking other antiviral medications to treat hepatitis C.


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 this medicine 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:

When you take Rebetol in combination with other medications: There may be other reasons you should not take the combination treatment. Tell your doctor about all your medical conditions.

To make sure this medicine is safe for you, tell your doctor if you have ever had:

Both men and women taking Rebetol should use effective birth control to prevent pregnancy. Ribavirin can cause birth defects, miscarriage, or death to an unborn baby if the mother or father is using this medicine.

It may not be safe to breastfeed while using this medicine. Ask your doctor about any risk.

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

How should I take Rebetol?

Rebetol is not effective when used alone and must be used in combination with other medications to treat hepatitis C.

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

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.

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

Store the liquid (oral solution) at room temperature or in the refrigerator.

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 to avoid

Avoid drinking alcohol. It can make your liver problems worse.

Using this medicine 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:

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:

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 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.