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Epivir (Generic Lamivudine)

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Epivir, also known as lamivudine, is a medication primarily used to treat HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B. Like any medication, it comes with potential risks and side effects. Here are some of the risks associated with taking Epivir:

  • Lactic acidosis: This is a rare but serious side effect characterized by a buildup of lactic acid in the bloodstream. Symptoms include weakness, unusual muscle pain, trouble breathing, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, rapid or irregular heartbeat. If left untreated, lactic acidosis can be life-threatening.
  • Liver problems: Epivir can cause liver problems, particularly in individuals with pre-existing liver disease. Symptoms of liver problems include jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes), dark urine, abdominal pain, and persistent nausea or vomiting.
  • Exacerbation of Hepatitis B: Discontinuing Epivir can lead to a sudden worsening of hepatitis B. Therefore, it’s crucial to consult a healthcare provider before stopping the medication, especially if you have hepatitis B.
  • Immune Reconstitution Syndrome: In HIV-infected individuals, starting treatment with Epivir may trigger an inflammatory response to pre-existing infections. This condition is known as immune reconstitution syndrome and can manifest as fever, inflammation, and worsening symptoms of opportunistic infections.
  • Pancreatitis: There have been reports of pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) in individuals taking Epivir. Symptoms include severe abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and fever.
  • Peripheral neuropathy: Some individuals may experience peripheral neuropathy, which is characterized by numbness, tingling, or pain in the hands or feet.
  • Allergic reactions: Allergic reactions to Epivir are rare but can be serious. Symptoms include rash, itching, swelling of the face, lips, or tongue, and difficulty breathing.

It’s essential to discuss the potential risks and benefits of Epivir with a healthcare provider before starting treatment. They can help weigh the risks against the benefits and monitor for any adverse effects during treatment.

Why is this medication prescribed?

Epivir, also known as lamivudine, is prescribed for the treatment of two main conditions:

  • HIV/AIDS: Epivir is used in combination with other antiretroviral medications to treat HIV infection. It belongs to a class of drugs called nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs), which work by blocking the action of an enzyme called reverse transcriptase, thereby inhibiting the replication of the HIV virus.
  • Hepatitis B: Epivir is also used to treat chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection. Similar to its action in HIV treatment, it works by inhibiting the replication of the hepatitis B virus.

How should this medicine be used?

How Epivir should be used:

  • Epivir is typically available in tablet form and may be taken with or without food.
  • The dosage and frequency of Epivir will depend on the condition being treated, other medications being taken, and individual factors such as kidney function.
  • For HIV treatment, Epivir is usually taken in combination with other antiretroviral drugs. The specific combination and dosage will be determined by a healthcare provider.
  • For hepatitis B treatment, Epivir is usually taken once a day. It’s essential to take it regularly as prescribed to achieve the best outcomes.
  • It’s crucial to follow the healthcare provider’s instructions carefully and not to adjust the dosage or stop taking Epivir without consulting them first.
  • If a dose is missed, it should be taken as soon as remembered. However, if it’s almost time for the next dose, the missed dose should be skipped, and the regular dosing schedule should be resumed. Doubling up on doses is not recommended.
  • It’s essential to continue taking Epivir even if feeling well, as stopping the medication prematurely can lead to the development of drug-resistant strains of HIV or hepatitis B.
  • Individuals with kidney problems may require dosage adjustments, so it’s crucial to inform the healthcare provider about any kidney issues.

As with any medication, it’s important to discuss any questions or concerns about Epivir with a healthcare provider to ensure safe and effective use.

Other uses for this medicine

Besides its primary use in treating HIV and HBV infections, there might be other off-label uses for Epivir. However, the decision to use it for these conditions should be made by a healthcare professional based on individual circumstances. Some other potential uses may include:

  • Treatment of chronic hepatitis C (usually in combination with other medications).
  • Prevention of HIV transmission from mother to child during childbirth.

What special precautions should I follow?

Special precautions for Epivir:

  • HIV resistance testing: Before starting Epivir for the treatment of HIV, healthcare providers may perform resistance testing to determine the most effective antiretroviral regimen for the individual. This helps identify any mutations in the HIV virus that may affect the drug’s effectiveness.
  • Hepatitis B screening: Prior to initiating Epivir for the treatment of hepatitis B, healthcare providers typically perform tests to assess liver function and screen for hepatitis B virus infection.
  • Kidney function monitoring: Epivir is primarily eliminated from the body through the kidneys, so individuals with impaired kidney function may require dosage adjustments or closer monitoring for potential side effects.
  • Lactic acidosis: Epivir has been associated with lactic acidosis, a rare but serious side effect characterized by a buildup of lactic acid in the bloodstream. Healthcare providers should monitor for symptoms of lactic acidosis, particularly in individuals with risk factors such as liver disease, obesity, or prolonged use of nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors.
  • Pancreatitis: Epivir has been associated with pancreatitis, inflammation of the pancreas. Healthcare providers should monitor for symptoms of pancreatitis, such as severe abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting.
  • Allergic reactions: Individuals taking Epivir should be monitored for signs of allergic reactions, such as rash, itching, swelling of the face, lips, or tongue, and difficulty breathing. If any allergic reactions occur, medical attention should be sought immediately.
  • Pregnancy and breastfeeding: Healthcare providers should consider the potential risks and benefits of using Epivir during pregnancy or breastfeeding. Epivir may be used in pregnant women living with HIV to prevent mother-to-child transmission, but the decision should be made in consultation with a healthcare provider.

It’s important for individuals taking Epivir to follow their healthcare provider’s instructions carefully and to report any unusual symptoms or side effects promptly.

What special dietary instructions should I follow?

There are no specific dietary restrictions associated with taking Epivir. However, it’s important to maintain a healthy, balanced diet to support overall health and well-being. If you have any concerns about your diet or nutrition while taking Epivir, consult your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian for personalized advice.

What should I do if I forget a dose?

If you miss a dose of Epivir, take it as soon as you remember. However, if it is almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and continue with your regular dosing schedule. Do not take a double dose to make up for a missed one. Taking extra medication can increase the risk of side effects.

What side effects can this medication cause?

Epivir (lamivudine) can cause various side effects, although not everyone experiences them. Common side effects of Epivir include:

  • Headache: Mild to moderate headaches are a common side effect of Epivir.
  • Nausea and vomiting: Some individuals may experience nausea and vomiting, especially when starting treatment with Epivir.
  • Diarrhea: Epivir can cause diarrhea in some people, which may be mild or severe.
  • Fatigue: Feeling tired or fatigued is another common side effect of Epivir.
  • Abdominal pain: Some individuals may experience abdominal pain or discomfort while taking Epivir.
  • Insomnia: Difficulty sleeping or insomnia may occur as a side effect of Epivir.
  • Rash: Skin rash or itching can occur in some individuals taking Epivir. Rarely, severe allergic reactions may occur, which require immediate medical attention.
  • Muscle or joint pain: Some individuals may experience muscle pain or joint pain while taking Epivir.
  • Dizziness: Feeling dizzy or lightheaded may occur as a side effect of Epivir.
  • Changes in liver function: Epivir can affect liver function, leading to elevated liver enzymes in some individuals. This usually resolves with continued treatment or dose adjustment.
  • Pancreatitis: In rare cases, Epivir can cause inflammation of the pancreas, leading to symptoms such as severe abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting.
  • Changes in body fat distribution: Epivir, like some other antiretroviral medications, may cause changes in body fat distribution, including fat loss from the arms, legs, or face, and fat accumulation in the abdomen, back of the neck (“buffalo hump”), or breasts.
  • Peripheral neuropathy: Epivir may cause peripheral neuropathy, which is characterized by numbness, tingling, or pain in the hands or feet.

It’s important to note that this is not a complete list of side effects associated with Epivir. Some side effects may be severe or persistent, while others may be mild and resolve on their own. If you experience any unusual or concerning symptoms while taking Epivir, it’s essential to contact your healthcare provider for further evaluation and guidance.

What should I know about storage and disposal of this medication?

Storage and Disposal:

  • Storage: Store Epivir tablets at room temperature away from light and moisture. Keep it out of reach of children and pets.
  • Disposal: Dispose of any unused or expired medication properly. Do not flush it down the toilet or pour it into a drain unless instructed to do so. Contact your local pharmacy or healthcare provider for guidance on proper disposal methods.

In case of emergency/overdose

  • Emergency Assistance: If you suspect an overdose or experience severe symptoms such as trouble breathing, fainting, or seizures, seek emergency medical attention immediately.
  • Overdose Symptoms: Overdose symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, unusual muscle pain, weakness, numbness or tingling, rapid breathing, and feeling light-headed.

What other information should I know?

  • Regular Follow-ups: Attend all scheduled appointments with your healthcare provider for monitoring and evaluation of your condition and response to treatment.
  • Lifestyle Considerations: Practice safe sex and avoid sharing needles or other injection equipment to prevent the spread of HIV or HBV.
  • Side Effects: Be aware of potential side effects of Epivir and report any unusual symptoms or side effects to your doctor promptly.
  • Medication Adherence: Take Epivir exactly as prescribed, and do not alter your dosage without consulting your doctor.
  • Lab Tests: Your doctor may order regular blood tests to monitor your liver function, kidney function, and overall health while you are taking Epivir.
  • Avoid Alcohol: Limit or avoid alcohol consumption while taking Epivir, as it may increase the risk of liver damage or other side effects.

Always consult with your healthcare provider or pharmacist for personalized advice and guidance regarding the storage, disposal, emergency management, and other important information specific to your individual circumstances and medical history.

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