What is Sustiva®?

Jacquelyn Gilchrist
Jacquelyn Gilchrist

Sustiva® is a brand name for the generic medication efavirenz. It is an antiviral drug prescribed for people with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) who may or may not have acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Sustiva® is typically prescribed along with other medications for HIV/AIDS. This medication is classified as a non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NNRTI) that prevents the HIV cells from multiplying and spreading, which can also help boost the immune system. Sustiva® also reduces the risk of developing complications from HIV, such as infections. There is no cure for HIV/AIDS, and the disease may still be spread to others, so patients must take all precautions.

Patients should take Sustiva® on an empty stomach, usually once daily. They will likely be advised to take the dose, with plenty of water, before bedtime to help lessen the severity of possible side effects. Those taking this medication should only take the exact prescribed amount. Symptoms of a possible overdose can include uncontrollable movements, hallucinations, euphoria, confusion, strange thoughts and dizziness. Some may collapse or even stop breathing. At the first signs of a possible overdose, patients or caregivers should call for an ambulance immediately or go to an emergency room.

Other side effects, although not necessarily from an overdose, can also be very serious. Patients should get medical help immediately if they experience thoughts of suicide, angry behavior, or loss of touch with reality. It may also cause seizures, flu-like symptoms, and blistering or peeling skin. Some people may notice extreme fatigue, pain in the upper area of the stomach, and loss of appetite. Patients should notify their doctors if more mild side effects persist or become severe, such as upset stomach, vomiting, and indigestion. General pain, stomach pain, and diarrhea may occur. Other patients complain of headache, drowsiness, and difficulty concentrating.

The prescribing doctor will likely provide some guidelines for the patient to follow to ensure health while taking Sustiva®. They should avoid consuming alcohol, as this can worsen side effects. Surgeons or dentists should be notified of the medication if the patient plans to undergo any procedures. Herbal products should be used with extreme caution and only with the approval of the prescribing physician, because supplements like St. John's wort and kava kava may interact with this drug.

In addition to these precautions, patients should inform the physician of all other medical conditions they have or other medications they take. Patients will likely undergo regular monitoring to ensure their general health and evaluate the effects of Sustiva®. It should not be used by pregnant or breastfeeding women, as it can cause birth defects.

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