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Emtriva Side Effects

Generic Name: emtricitabine

Note: This document contains side effect information about emtricitabine. Some of the dosage forms listed on this page may not apply to the brand name Emtriva.

For the Consumer

Applies to emtricitabine: oral capsule, oral solution

Along with its needed effects, emtricitabine (the active ingredient contained in Emtriva) may cause some unwanted effects. Although not all of these side effects may occur, if they do occur they may need medical attention.

Check with your doctor immediately if any of the following side effects occur while taking emtricitabine:

More common
  • Burning, crawling, itching, numbness, prickling, "pins and needles”, or tingling feelings
  • chest pain or tightness
  • cough or hoarseness
  • fever or chills
  • lower back or side pain
  • painful or difficult urination
  • pale skin
  • troubled breathing with exertion
  • unusual bleeding or bruising
  • unusual tiredness or weakness
Less common
  • Sensation of pins and needles
  • stabbing pain

Some side effects of emtricitabine may occur that usually do not need medical attention. These side effects may go away during treatment as your body adjusts to the medicine. Also, your health care professional may be able to tell you about ways to prevent or reduce some of these side effects. Check with your health care professional if any of the following side effects continue or are bothersome or if you have any questions about them:

More common
  • Abdominal or stomach pain
  • abnormal dreams
  • darkening or redness of the skin
  • depression
  • dizziness
  • earache
  • headache
  • heartburn or indigestion
  • itching skin
  • puffiness or swelling of the eyelids or around the eyes, face, lips, or tongue
  • rash, hives, or welts on the skin
  • spots on your skin resembling a blister or pimple
  • vomiting
Less common
  • Joint pain or swelling
  • muscle stiffness
  • trouble sleeping
  • unsteadiness or awkwardness
  • weakness in the arms, hands, legs, or feet

For Healthcare Professionals

Applies to emtricitabine: oral capsule, oral solution


The most common side effects reported during any of 3 large controlled clinical trials were headache, diarrhea, nausea, fatigue, dizziness, depression, insomnia, abnormal dreams, rash, abdominal pain, asthenia, increased cough, and rhinitis.

During 2 clinical trials, the most common side effects associated with emtricitabine (the active ingredient contained in Emtriva) in combination with other antiretrovirals were headache, diarrhea, nausea, and rash. Most were of mild to moderate severity. Treatment was discontinued due to these adverse effects in approximately 1% of patients.

Side effects have been reported for emtricitabine when taken in combination with other antiretroviral agents.[Ref]


Dermatological side effects have included rash event (any Grade: up to 30%; Grades 2 to 4: 7%). "Rash event" included rash, pruritus, maculopapular rash, urticaria, vesiculobullous rash, pustular rash, exfoliative rash, generalized rash, macular rash, pruritic rash, vesicular rash, and allergic reaction. Skin discoloration (palmar-plantar hyperpigmentation) has been reported.[Ref]

Nervous system

Nervous system side effects have included dizziness (any Grade: up to 25%; Grades 2 to 4: 8%), headache (any Grade: up to 22%; Grades 2 to 4: 6%), insomnia (any Grade: up to 16%; Grades 2 to 4: 5%), paresthesia (any Grade: up to 6%), neuropathy/peripheral neuritis (any Grade: 4%), and somnolence.[Ref]


Gastrointestinal side effects have included diarrhea (any Grade: 23%; Grades 2 to 4: 9%), nausea (any Grade: up to 18%; Grades 2 to 4: 9%), vomiting (any Grade: 9%; Grades 2 to 4: 2%), and dyspepsia (any Grade: up to 8%).[Ref]


Metabolic side effects have included blood glucose changes (less than 40 or greater than 250 mg/dL; up to 3%), hyperglycemia (greater than 250 mg/dL; 2%), and increased fasting cholesterol (greater than 240 mg/dL; 22%), triglycerides (greater than 750 mg/dL; up to 10%), serum amylase (greater than 2 times ULN: up to 5%; greater than 175 units/L: 8%), fasting triglycerides (greater than 750 mg/dL; 4%), pancreatic amylase (greater than 2 times ULN; up to 2%), serum lipase (greater than 2 times ULN; up to 1%), and alkaline phosphatase (greater than 550 units/L; 1%). Redistribution/accumulation of body fat including central obesity, dorsocervical fat enlargement, peripheral wasting, facial wasting, breast enlargement, and "cushingoid appearance" have been observed in patients receiving antiretroviral therapy.[Ref]


Respiratory side effects have included rhinitis (any Grade: up to 18%), increased cough (any Grade: 14%), sinusitis (Grades 2 to 4: 8%), upper respiratory tract infections (Grades 2 to 4: 8%), and nasopharyngitis (Grades 2 to 4: 5%).[Ref]


Other side effects have included asthenia (any Grade: up to 16%), abdominal pain (any Grade: up to 14%), and fatigue (Grades 2 to 4: 9%).[Ref]


Increased creatine kinase (greater than 990 units/L in males and 845 units/L in females) has been reported in 9% of patients.[Ref]

Musculoskeletal side effects have included elevated creatine kinase (greater than 4 times ULN; up to 12%), myalgia (any Grade: up to 6%), and arthralgia (any Grade: up to 5%).[Ref]


Psychiatric side effects have included abnormal dreams (any Grade: up to 11%), depressive disorders (any Grade: up to 9%), and depression (Grades 2 to 4: 9%).


Hepatic side effects have included elevated AST (greater than 5 times ULN; up to 6%), ALT (greater than 5 times ULN; up to 5%), and bilirubin (greater than 2.5 times ULN; up to 1%). Lactic acidosis and severe hepatomegaly with steatosis, including fatal cases, have been reported with the use of emtricitabine (the active ingredient contained in Emtriva) and other nucleoside analogs alone or in combination with other antiretroviral agents. Severe acute exacerbations of hepatitis B have been reported in patients coinfected with HIV-1 and hepatitis B after discontinuation of emtricitabine and were associated with liver failure and liver decompensation in some patients.[Ref]

Increased AST (greater than 180 units/L in males and 170 units/L in females) has been reported in 3% of patients. Increased ALT (greater than 215 units/L in males and 170 units/L in females) has been reported in 2% of patients.[Ref]


Immunologic side effects have included immune reconstitution syndrome. Autoimmune disorders (e.g., Graves' disease, polymyositis, and Guillain-Barre syndrome) have been reported in the setting of immune reconstitution.


Hematologic side effects have included decreased neutrophils (less than 750/mm3; up to 5%).[Ref]


Genitourinary side effects have included hematuria (greater than 75 RBC/HPF; 3%) and glycosuria (3 plus; less than 1%).


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15. Lim SG, Ng TM, Kung N, et al. "A Double-blind Placebo-Controlled Study of Emtricitabine in Chronic Hepatitis B." Arch Intern Med 166 (2006): 49-56

Some side effects of Emtriva may not be reported. Always consult your doctor or healthcare specialist for medical advice. You may also report side effects to the FDA.

Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure that the information provided is accurate, up-to-date and complete, but no guarantee is made to that effect. In addition, the drug information contained herein may be time sensitive and should not be utilized as a reference resource beyond the date hereof. This material does not endorse drugs, diagnose patients, or recommend therapy. This information is a reference resource designed as supplement to, and not a substitute for, the expertise, skill , knowledge, and judgement of healthcare practitioners in patient care. The absence of a warning for a given drug or combination thereof in no way should be construed to indicate safety, effectiveness, or appropriateness for any given patient. does not assume any responsibility for any aspect of healthcare administered with the aid of materials provided. 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 substances you are taking, check with your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist.