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What is Nelfinavir?

By Jacquelyn Gilchrist
Updated May 17, 2024
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Nelfinavir is a medication prescribed to help manage human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). It is a protease inhibitor drug that inhibits the replication of the virus within the body. This may help delay some of the problems that HIV patients can experience, such as complications like additional infections, meningitis, and decreased neurological function. Patients should be aware that this drug is not a cure for HIV.

The doctor will typically prescribe other medications to be used along with nelfinavir. Patients may be unable to take all their medicines at once. For example, if they are also prescribed didanosine, they should take this drug either one hour prior to or two hours following their dose of nelfinavir. A consistent dosing schedule should be adhered to in order for the body to maintain regular levels of the drugs.

Nelfinavir is available as a tablet or a powder, which should be taken with a meal two to three times daily. Those who are unable to swallow the tablet may crush it and dissolve it in a liquid. To ensure that they have received the full dose, after consuming the liquid, patients should add a small amount of additional liquid to the same cup and drink it. The powder should be dissolved in a drink, such as milk, soy milk, or water. Patients should not consume the drug with an acidic drink, such as fruit juice.

Some side effects are possible with the use of nelfinavir. Patients should not worry about mild side effects, such as occasional nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. They may also notice loss of appetite and stomach pain. If these symptoms become severe, however, patients should notify their doctors.

Diabetics and those with insulin resistance should be aware that nelfinavir may cause high blood sugar. These patients must carefully monitor their blood glucose levels and get medical help immediately if they observe any symptoms of hyperglycemia. These can include blurred vision, extreme hunger or thirst, and frequent urination, as well as general weakness. Ketoacidosis, a very dangerous form of high blood sugar, may also develop, causing symptoms such as shortness of breath, decreased consciousness, and “fruity” breath.

Before taking nelfinavir, patients should inform their doctor of all other medical conditions they have and other medications and supplements they take. They must inform the physician if they are pregnant or breastfeeding, or if they have liver disease, a bleeding disorder, or kidney problems. Nelfinavir may interact with other drugs, such as birth control pills, blood thinners, and medications for mental disorders. St. John's wort, garlic, and ginseng may also interact with this HIV medicine.

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