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AIDSinfo Drug Database

AIDSinfo Drug Database

Drugs by class



Saquinavir  Audio icon

Brand Name: Invirase
Other Names: saquinavir mesylate, SQV
Drug Class: Protease Inhibitors
Approved Use: Treatment of HIV Infection
Drug Images:
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Invirase 500mg Pill
Saquinavir 0245
Chemical Image:
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saquinavir mesylate
saquinavir mesylate
Molecular Weight: 766.956


Saquinavir can cause serious, life-threatening side effects. These include heart rhythm problems and worsening liver problems in people with pre-existing liver problems or a history of alcoholism.

Contact your health care provider right away if you have any of the following symptoms that may signal heart rhythm problems:

  • Dizziness.
  • Lightheadedness.
  • Fainting.
  • Sensation of abnormal heartbeats.

Contact your health care provider right away if you have any of the following symptoms that may signal liver problems:

  • Loss of appetite.
  • Yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes (jaundice).
  • Dark-colored urine.
  • Light-colored bowel movements.
  • Itchy skin.
  • Pain in the stomach area (abdominal pain).

Taking saquinavir together with certain medicines can cause serious and/or life-threatening side effects.

While taking saquinavir, it is important to keep all of your appointments with your health care provider.

What is saquinavir?

Saquinavir is a prescription medicine approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of HIV infection in people 16 years of age and older. Saquinavir is always used in combination with the HIV medicine ritonavir (brand name: Norvir) and other HIV medicines.

Saquinavir belongs to a class (group) of HIV medicines called protease inhibitors (PIs). PIs block an HIV enzyme called protease. (An enzyme is a protein that starts or increases the speed of a chemical reaction.) By blocking protease, PIs prevent HIV from multiplying and can reduce the amount of HIV in the body.
Saquinavir does not cure HIV/AIDS. People with HIV should stay on continuous HIV treatment as directed by their health care provider and should take steps to avoid passing HIV to others (for example, always using a condom during sex).

What should I tell my health care provider before taking saquinavir?

Before taking saquinavir, tell your health care provider:

  • If you are allergic to saquinavir or any other medicines.
  • If you have any heart problems, including a condition called congenital long QT syndrome.
  • If you have diabetes.
  • If you have liver problems, including hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection or hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection.
  • If you have hemophilia.
  • If you have low potassium or low magnesium in your blood.
  • If you have any other medical conditions. 
  • If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. Whether saquinavir can harm an unborn baby is unknown.
  • If you are using hormone-based birth control (such as pills, injections, or implants). Saquinavir may make these forms of birth control less effective. Your health care provider can help you decide how to adjust your birth control while you are on saquinavir.
  • If you are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. Do not breastfeed if you are infected with HIV or are taking saquinavir.
  • About other prescription and nonprescription medicines, vitamins, nutritional supplements, and herbal products you are taking or plan to take. Saquinavir may affect the way other medicines or products work, and other medicines or products may affect how saquinavir works. Taking saquinavir together with certain medicines or products may cause serious and/or life-threatening side effects.

How should I take saquinavir?

Saquinavir comes in the following forms and strengths:

  • 200-mg hard-gel capsules (brand name: Invirase).
  • 500-mg film-coated tablets (brand name: Invirase).

(A 200-mg soft-gel capsule form of saquinavir was formerly sold under the brand name Fortovase. Sale of Fortovase was discontinued in February 2006.)

Take saquinavir according to your health care provider’s instructions.

Take saquinavir at the same time that you take the HIV medicine ritonavir (brand name: Norvir). Take saquinavir, along with ritonavir, with a full meal or up to 2 hours after a meal.

Always take saquinavir in combination with other HIV medicines.

If you are unable to swallow saquinavir capsules whole, the capsules can be opened and the contents mixed with 15 mL of sugar syrup or jam. People with type 1 diabetes or glucose intolerance should use sorbitol syrup.

If you take too much saquinavir, contact your health care provider or local poison control center (1-800-222-1222) right away or go to the nearest hospital emergency room.

For more information on how to take saquinavir, see the FDA drug label from DailyMed. (DailyMed is a federal website that includes the most recent drug labels submitted to FDA.)

What should I do if I forget a dose?

Take the missed dose as soon as you remember it. But if it is almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and just take your next dose at the regular time. Do not take two doses at the same time to make up for a missed dose.

What side effects can saquinavir cause?

Saquinavir can cause serious, life-threatening side effects. These include heart rhythm problems and worsening liver problems in people with pre-existing liver problems or a history of alcoholism. (See the WARNING above.)

Other possible side effects of saquinavir include:

  • Diabetes and high blood sugar (hyperglycemia).
  • Changes in body fat (lipodystrophy).
  • Changes in the immune system (immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome [IRIS]).
  • Increases in certain fat (cholesterol and triglyceride) levels in the blood (hyperlipidemia).
  • Increased bleeding in people with hemophilia.

Tell your health care provider if you have any side effect that bothers you or that does not go away.

These are not all the possible side effects of saquinavir. Ask your health care provider or pharmacist for more information on possible side effects of saquinavir. You may also want to read this fact sheet about HIV medicines and side effects.

You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088 (1-800-332-1088).

How should saquinavir be stored?

  • Store saquinavir at room temperature, 68°F to 77°F (20°C to 25°C).
  • Keep saquinavir in the container that it came in and keep the container tightly closed.
  • Safely throw away saquinavir that is no longer needed or expired (out of date).
  • Keep saquinavir and all medicines out of reach of children.

Where can I find more information about saquinavir?

More information about saquinavir is available:

Manufacturer Information

Hoffman-La Roche

The above Patient Version drug summary is based on the following FDA label(s): Capsule, tablet (film coated).

Last Reviewed: March 24, 2014

Last Updated: February 3, 2015

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