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What is Emtricitabine?

Article Details
  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 09 December 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2019
    Conjecture Corporation
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Emtricitabine is an oral human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) medication patients can take to suppress the spread of the virus in their bodies, whether they have active HIV infections or full-blown acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). A doctor will prescribe this medication, usually in combination with other drugs. Patients can buy standalone tablets and liquids, or can purchase combination drugs where the drug is packaged with other HIV medications for convenient dosing.

This medication is a reverse transcriptase inhibitor, interrupting the replication of HIV. Before a doctor prescribes emtricitabine, she will interview the patient and run some tests to see if the patient is a good candidate for treatment with this medication. Usually kidney and liver function tests are part of this process, as patients with organ damage may have trouble metabolizing the medication and could be more at risk of side effects. As the patient takes the medication, the doctor will adjust the dosage and request periodic followups to see how well the body responds to the drug.

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Patients taking emtricitabine commonly experience side effects like headache, nausea, rash, and fatigue. Some develop numbness of the extremities, runny noses, joint pain, and depression. Patients should report severe and persistent side effects, as they may be a sign of poor tolerance of the medication. Serious emtricitabine side effects include liver damage and lactic acidosis, where levels of lactic acid rise dangerously. People with existing liver disease or hepatitis infections may not be able to take the drug.

Taking emtricitabine can reduce the chances of developing AIDS or offer more control for a patient's AIDS. It will not cure the patient, and the patient can still pass HIV to other people. People on this medication are more prone to infections because of immune compromise, although their immune systems are more robust than those of people who are not receiving treatment for HIV infection. It is important to attend follow up appointments regularly and to follow medical recommendations for vaccines and other preventative measures to limit the risk of infection.

When emtricitabine is part of a combination drug regimen, the patient can discuss the possibility of purchasing compounded medications where all the drugs are taken in a single tablet. These may be less costly than taking drugs separately, and the drug regimen will be easier to stick to when the patient is not taking an array of pills daily. Many pharmacies are willing to work with HIV patients and their doctors to find the most cost-effective and convenient drug regimen.

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