skip navigation

Skip Nav

AIDSinfo Drug Database

Skip Navigation

Emtricitabine  Audio icon

Brand Name: Emtriva
Other Names: FTC
Drug Class: Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors
Approved Use: Treatment of HIV Infection
Drug Images:
Click image to enlarge
Chemical Image:
Click image to enlarge
Molecular Weight: 247.249


Emtricitabine can cause serious, life-threatening side effects. These include lactic acidosis (buildup of acid in the blood) and serious liver problems.

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

  • Feeling very weak or tired.
  • Unusual (not normal) muscle pain.
  • Trouble breathing.
  • Stomach pain with nausea and vomiting.
  • Feeling cold, especially in the arms and legs.
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded.
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat.

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

  • Yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes (jaundice).
  • Dark-colored urine.
  • Light-colored bowel movements.
  • Loss of appetite for several days or longer.
  • Nausea.
  • Pain in the lower stomach (abdominal) area.

Emtricitabine is not approved for the treatment of hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection. People infected with HBV who take emtricitabine and then stop taking it may get severe worsening of their HBV infections.

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

What is emtricitabine?

Emtricitabine is a prescription medicine approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of HIV infection in adults, children, and infants. Emtricitabine is always used in combination with other anti-HIV medicines.

Emtricitabine is a type of anti-HIV medicine called a nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NRTI). NRTIs work by blocking HIV reverse transcriptase, an HIV enzyme. This prevents HIV from replicating and lowers the amount of HIV in the blood.

Emtricitabine does not cure HIV/AIDS. It is not known if emtricitabine reduces the risk of passing HIV to other people.

Emtricitabine can also be used “off-label” to treat hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection, an opportunistic infection of HIV infection.

  • “Off-label” use refers to use of an FDA-approved medicine in a manner different from that described on the medicine label. Good medical practice and the best interests of a patient sometimes require that a medicine be used “off-label.”
  • An opportunistic infection is an infection that occurs more frequently or is more severe in people with weakened immune systems—such as those infected with HIV—than in people with healthy immune systems.

The Guidelines for the Prevention and Treatment of Opportunistic Infections in HIV-Infected Adults and Adolescents, prepared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the HIV Medicine Association of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA-HIVMA), includes recommendations for the “off-label” use of emtricitabine to treat HBV infection in people who are also receiving combination antiretroviral therapy (ART) for HIV infection. In addition to emtricitabine, the ART regimen should include another drug that is effective against both HBV and HIV. Emtricitabine should not be used to treat HBV in HIV-infected individuals who are not receiving ART.

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

Before taking emtricitabine, tell your health care provider:

  • If you are allergic to emtricitabine or any other medicines.
  • If you have kidney problems.
  • If you have any liver problems, including HBV infection.
  • About any medical problems (including past medical problems).
  • If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. Whether emtricitabine can harm an unborn baby is unknown.
  • If you are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. Do not breastfeed if you are infected with HIV or are taking emtricitabine.
  • About other prescription and nonprescription medicines, vitamins, nutritional supplements, and herbal products you are taking or plan to take. Emtricitabine may affect the way other medicines or products work, and other medicines and products may affect how emtricitabine works. Taking emtricitabine together with certain medicines or products may cause serious side effects. 

How should I take emtricitabine?

Emtricitabine comes in two different forms:

  • 200-mg capsules (brand name: Emtriva).
  • 10-mg/mL oral solution (brand name: Emtriva).

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

Take emtricitabine by mouth, with or without food.

Always take emtricitabine in combination with other anti-HIV medicines.

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

For more information on how to take emtricitabine, 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. If it is almost time for the next dose, skip the missed dose and continue your regular dosing schedule. Do not take more than one dose of emtricitabine in a day. Do not take a double dose to make up for a dose you missed.

What side effects can emtricitabine cause?

Emtricitabine can cause serious, life-threatening side effects. These include lactic acidosis (buildup of acid in the blood) and serious liver problems. (See the WARNING above.)

Other possible side effects of emtricitabine include:

  • Changes in the immune system (immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome).
  • Changes in body fat (lipodystrophy).
  • Skin discoloration.

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 emtricitabine. Ask your health care provider or pharmacist for more information on possible side effects of emtricitabine.

How should emtricitabine be stored?

  • Store emtricitabine capsules between 59°F and 86°F (15°C to 30°C).
  • Store emtricitabine oral solution in a refrigerator, between 36°F and 46°F (2°C to 8°C). Do not freeze the oral solution. Or store emtricitabine oral solution at room temperature for up to 3 months. After the 3 months, throw away any remaining solution in the bottle.
  • Safely throw away emtricitabine that is no longer needed or expired (out of date).
  • Keep emtricitabine and all medicines out of reach of children.

Where can I find more information about emtricitabine?

More information about emtricitabine is available:

Manufacturer Information

Gilead Sciences

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

Last Reviewed: May 7, 2013

Last Updated: August 23, 2013