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What is Raltegravir?

By Debra Durkee
Updated May 17, 2024
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Raltegravir is the generic name of a medication that is prescribed to individuals who have been diagnosed with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). While it does not cure the disease, it can help slow the spread of the virus throughout the body. Available in tablet form, it is generally administered with other medications.

The medication works by blocking the formation of the virus. In a body wherein HIV is present, there is also an enzyme called HIV integrase. This enzyme is in part responsible for the replication of the virus; raltegravir and the brand name medications that it is a component of act on these enzymes. By interfering with the function of them, it in turn helps slow reproduction and the spread of the virus through the body. In order for maximum effectiveness, it is generally prescribed with several other types of medication.

When first starting a treatment plan, raltegravir may contribute to some side effects. These generally go away as the body adjusts to the medication, but they should be reported if they do not. Side effects that are generally mild include gastrointestinal distress, such as vomiting, stomach cramps, nausea and diarrhea. Some individuals also may experience fatigue, headache, and may acquire a pale complexion.

Some side effects are more serious, and experiencing these can result in medications being changed or a dosage reduced. Signs that the body is having a negative reaction to the medication include difficulty breathing; jaundice; flu symptoms, such as fever, chills, body aches and weakness; chest pain; and swelling in the extremities. Depending on the individual, there may be other side effects that develop as well.

Many medical professionals will require regular consultations with a patient while he or she is taking raltegravir. As it interferes with the way HIV replicates and spreads through the body, it may effect other areas of the body over time. A doctor may request that the patient take regular blood tests and undergo routine lab work in order to see how his or her body is reacting to long-term administration of the drug.

Although the administration of raltegravir can help alleviate some of the symptoms of HIV, it does not cure the disease. Those receiving treatment can still spread the disease and can be susceptible to some of the illnesses associated with it. Even though an individual may feel better, he or she should continue taking the medication for the best management of the virus and its symptoms.

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