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abacavir

Pronunciation: a BAK a veer

Brand: Ziagen

Ziagen 250 mg

oblong, yellow, imprinted with GX623

Image of Ziagen 250 mg
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Ziagen Solution

yellow, strawberry-banana

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What is the most important information I should know about abacavir?

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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.

Once you have had an allergic reaction to abacavir, you must never use it again.

Read the Warning Card that comes with this medication, and carry it with you at all times so you will know the symptoms of allergic reaction to watch for.

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Some people develop lactic acidosis while taking abacavir. Early symptoms may get worse over time and this condition can be fatal. 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).

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Do not allow this 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 in a row, you may have a dangerous or even fatal allergic reaction once you start taking abacavir again. If you stop taking abacavir for any reason, talk to your doctor before you start taking the medication again.

What is abacavir?

Abacavir is an antiviral medication that prevents human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) cells from multiplying in your body.

Abacavir is used to treat HIV, which causes the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Abacavir is not a cure for HIV or AIDS.

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

What should I discuss with my healthcare provider before taking abacavir?

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Do not take this medication if you have ever had an allergic reaction to any medicine that contains abacavir, including Ziagen, Epzicom, or Trizivir. Once you have had an allergic reaction to abacavir, you must never use it again.

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Some people develop a life-threatening condition called lactic acidosis while taking abacavir. You may be more likely to develop lactic acidosis if you are overweight or have liver disease, if you are a woman, or if you have taken HIV or AIDS medications for a long time. Talk with your doctor about your individual risk.

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.

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Do not take abacavir with any other medication that contains abacavir, such as Epzicom or Trizivir.

To make sure you can safely take abacavir, tell your doctor if you have any of these other conditions:

  • heart disease, high blood pressure;
  • liver disease;
  • a risk factor for heart disease such as smoking, diabetes, or high cholesterol; or
  • if you have used an HIV medication in the past, such as didanosine (Videx), emtricitabine (Atripla, Complera, Emtriva, Truvada), lamivudine (Combivir, Epivir, Epzicom, Trizivir), stavudine (Zerit), tenofovir (Viread), zalcitabine (Hivid), or zidovudine (Retrovir).

You may need a blood test before you start taking abacavir for the first time, or if you are restarting the medication after stopping for reasons not related to an allergic reaction.

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FDA pregnancy category C. 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.

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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 abacavir?

Take exactly as prescribed by your doctor. Do not take in larger or smaller amounts or for longer than recommended. Follow the directions on your prescription label.

This medication comes with patient instructions for safe and effective use. Follow these directions carefully. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions.

Abacavir can be taken with or without food.

Measure liquid medicine with a special dose-measuring spoon or medicine cup, not with a regular table spoon. If you do not have a dose-measuring device, ask your pharmacist for one.

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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.

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.

To be sure this medicine is helping your condition and is not causing harmful effects, your blood will need to be tested often. Your liver function may also need to be tested. Visit your doctor regularly.

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Store at room temperature away from moisture and heat.

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You may store the oral solution (liquid) in the refrigerator but do not let it freeze.

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.

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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 this medication again.

What happens if I overdose?

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Seek emergency medical attention or call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222.

What should I avoid while taking abacavir?

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

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Taking this medication will not prevent you from passing HIV to other people. Avoid having unprotected sex or sharing 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.

What are the possible side effects of abacavir?

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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.
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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.

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Abacavir may cause lactic acidosis (a build-up of lactic acid in the body, which can be fatal). Lactic acidosis can start slowly and get worse over time. Get emergency medical help if you have even mild symptoms of lactic acidosis, 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 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;
  • signs of a new infection such as flu symptoms, chills, easy bruising or unusual bleeding, loss of appetite, mouth sores;
  • severe pain in your upper stomach spreading to your back;
  • itching, loss of appetite, dark urine, clay-colored stools, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes);
  • increased sweating, tremors in your hands, anxiety, feeling irritable, sleep problems (insomnia);
  • diarrhea, unexplained weight loss, menstrual changes, impotence, loss of interest in sex;
  • swelling in your neck or throat (enlarged thyroid);
  • weakness or prickly feeling in your fingers or toes;
  • problems with walking, breathing, speech, swallowing, or eye movement; or
  • severe lower back pain, loss of bladder or bowel control.

Less serious side effects may include:

  • strange dreams;
  • headache, ear pain;
  • cold symptoms such as stuffy nose, sneezing, sinus pain; or
  • changes in the shape or location of body fat (especially in your arms, legs, face, neck, breasts, and trunk).

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 abacavir?

Tell your doctor about all other medicines you use, especially methadone (Diskets, Dolophine, Methadose).

There may be other drugs that can interact with abacavir. Tell your doctor about all medications you use. This includes prescription, over-the-counter, vitamin, and herbal products. Do not start a new medication without telling your doctor.

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.

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