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What is Ziagen®?

By D. Jeffress
Updated May 17, 2024
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Ziagen® is a medication commonly prescribed for patients with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). It is usually taken in combination with other HIV drugs to provide the strongest possible defenses against the virus. Ziagen® comes in tablet and solution form, and is usually prescribed to be taken once or twice daily. It is essential for a patient to follow his or her doctor's dosing recommendations exactly to achieve the maximum effects and avoid complications. The drug cannot cure HIV, but it can help suppress the virus, slow its progression, and boost the immune system's ability to fight off other infections and illnesses.

The active ingredient in Ziagen® is abacavir, which is classified as a nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NTRI). HIV relies on reverse transcriptase enzymes to replicate and spread throughout cells in a host's body. An NTRI invades a section of the virus's DNA sequence and blocks the action of reverse transcriptase, thereby preventing the synthesis of new DNA strands. Ziagen® is usually taken with a series of other NTRIs and drugs that inhibit other viral activities to help stop or slow HIV's ability to replicate.

Before prescribing Ziagen®, a doctor thoroughly reviews a patient's medical history and current drug regimen. It is possible for the medication to react adversely with other drugs, so physicians are careful when writing prescriptions. Among other factors, doctors take into consideration patients' ages and weights when determining proper dosage amounts. Most adult patients are instructed to take 600 milligrams of the drug in a single dose or two equal doses daily. Children are rarely prescribed more than 300 milligrams a day to prevent possible overdoses.

It is possible to experience a range of side effects when taking Ziagen®, though most are mild and relatively short-lived. A patient is most likely experience headaches, nausea, insomnia, fatigue, and diarrhea. Less commonly, the medication can induce a fever, vomiting, difficulty breathing, and joint aches. Some patients experience dangerous allergic reactions to the drug that cause hives and throat swelling. An individual who has mild side effects should report them to his or her doctor, but sudden severe complications typically need to be addressed at an emergency room.

A doctor usually explains all of the potential side effects and dosing recommendations thoroughly before giving a patient access to the drug. He or she can answer in detail any questions the patient may have about Ziagen®, NTRIs, or HIV. Patient education is one of the most important elements of treating HIV, and individuals with the right information and support can usually enjoy a fulfilling life despite the diagnosis.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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