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What is Viread®?

By Ann Olson
Updated May 17, 2024
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Viread® is a medication that helps treat the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV. It cannot cure HIV, however. This drug is called a nucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitor because it prevents an enzyme the HIV virus uses to replicate itself from working. It stops the HIV virus from changing the DNA of T-cells, thus preventing the virus from multiplying.

HIV replicates by integrating its DNA into that of the host cell; once the virus has matured in the cell, it can then infect other cells. Viread® prevents the enzyme that allows the DNA integration action from occurring, which can help to control the spread of the virus. This may increase the expected life span of people with this virus, as the spread of HIV can eventually lead to AIDS, an incurable condition that results in death.

For HIV sufferers, Viread® may be beneficial; not only does it control the spread of HIV, it also helps lessen T-cell damage, which can slow immune system damage. It can cause certain side effects, however. Its most serious side effect is a condition called lactic acidosis, or a buildup of lactic acid in the blood. It may also cause the skin and eyes to look yellow. This condition is better known as jaundice, which is common in people with liver damage.

Viread® is also used to treat the hepatitis B virus, a condition that harms the liver. It works in a similar way as to how it helps treat HIV, by preventing an enzyme from functioning correctly and thus limiting the ability of the virus to reproduce. Its effects are mostly preventative; left untreated, hepatitis B can cause liver cancer, which can be fatal.

Regardless of which condition this drug is used to treat, Viread® may be preferred because it only requires one dose per day to work. Many HIV or hepatitis B drugs require multiple daily doses, which may be hard for some people to remember. Viread® simplifies this, but the drug is usually not taken alone when used to treat either condition.

As a treatment for HIV, Viread® is effective for many, but not all, HIV strains. It is commonly used against those strains that do not respond to traditional treatments, known as drug-resistant strains. For example, people who take emtricitibine but do not improve may take this drug instead.

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