Ritonavir can cause serious, life-threatening side effects. These include liver problems, pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), severe allergic reactions, heart rhythm problems, and life-threatening drug interactions.
Contact your health care provider right away if you have any of the following symptoms that may signal liver problems:
- Loss of appetite.
- Pain or tenderness on the right side below your ribs.
- Yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes (jaundice).
- Itchy skin.
Contact your health care provider right away if you have any of the following symptoms that may signal pancreatitis:
Contact your health care provider right away if you have any of the following symptoms that may signal heart rhythm problems:
- Pain in your stomach area.
- Feeling faint or passing out.
- Abnormal heartbeat.
Contact your health care provider right away if you develop a rash. Stop taking ritonavir and get medical help right away if you have any of the following symptoms that may signal a severe allergic reaction:
- Trouble breathing.
- Dizziness or fainting.
- Throat tightness or hoarseness.
- Fast heartbeat or pounding in your chest.
- Swelling of your face, lips, or tongue.
- Muscle or joint pain.
- Blisters or skin lesions.
- Mouth sores or ulcers.
Taking ritonavir with certain other medicines (sedative hypnotics, antiarrhythmics, or ergot alkaloid preparations) may result in serious and/or life-threatening side effects.
While taking ritonavir, it is important to keep all of your appointments with your health care provider.
What is ritonavir?
Ritonavir is a prescription medicine approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of HIV infection in adults and children older than age 1 month. Ritonavir is always used in combination with other anti-HIV medicines.
Ritonavir is a type of anti-HIV medicine called a protease inhibitor (PI). Ritonavir works by blocking protease, an HIV enzyme. This prevents HIV from replicating and lowers the amount of HIV in the blood.
Ritonavir does not cure HIV/AIDS. It is not known if ritonavir reduces the risk of passing HIV to other people.
What should I tell my health care provider before taking ritonavir?
Before taking ritonavir, tell your health care provider:
- If you are allergic to ritonavir or any other medicines.
- If you have liver problems, including hepatitis B virus (HBV) or hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection.
- If you have heart problems.
- If you have diabetes or high blood sugar (hyperglycemia).
- If you have bleeding problems or hemophilia.
- If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. Whether ritonavir 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 ritonavir.
- About other prescription and nonprescription medicines, vitamins, nutritional supplements, and herbal products you are taking or plan to take. Ritonavir may affect the way other medicines or products work, and other medicines or products may affect how ritonavir works. Taking ritonavir with certain medicines or products may cause serious and/or life-threatening side effects.
How should I take ritonavir?
Ritonavir comes in the following forms and strengths:
- 100-mg tablets (brand name: Norvir).
- 100-mg soft gelatin capsules (brand name: Norvir).
- 80-mg/mL oral solution (brand name: Norvir).
Take ritonavir according to your health care provider’s instructions.
Take ritonavir with meals. Swallow ritonavir tablets whole. Do not chew, break, or crush the tablets before swallowing. Ritonavir oral solution is a peppermint- or caramel-flavored liquid that can be taken alone or combined with 8 ounces of chocolate milk, Ensure, or Advera to improve the taste. (When mixed with these fluids, ritonavir oral solution should be taken within 1 hour of mixing.) Always shake the oral solution well before each use.
Always take ritonavir in combination with other anti-HIV medicines.
If you take too much ritonavir, 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 ritonavir, see the FDA drug labels for ritonavir tablets, capsules, and oral solution, 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 ritonavir cause?
Ritonavir can cause serious, life-threatening side effects. These include liver problems, pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), severe allergic reactions, heart rhythm problems, and life-threatening drug interactions. (See the WARNING above.)
Other possible side effects of ritonavir include:
- Increases in cholesterol and triglycerides (hyperlipidemia).
- Diabetes and high blood sugar (hyperglycemia).
- Changes in the immune system (immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome).
- Changes in body fat (lipodystrophy).
- 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 ritonavir. Ask your health care provider or pharmacist for more information on possible side effects of ritonavir.
How should ritonavir be stored?
- Store ritonavir tablets and oral solution at room temperature, 68°F to 77°F (20°C to 25°C).
- Do not refrigerate ritonavir oral solution and keep it away from heat.
- Avoid exposure of ritonavir tablets to high humidity outside the original container for longer than 2 weeks.
- Store ritonavir capsules in the refrigerator, 36°F to 46°F (2°C to 8°C). If the capsules are used within 30 days, they do not need to be refrigerated but do need to be stored below 77°F (25°C). Protect the capsules from light and avoid exposure to excessive heat.
- Store ritonavir tablets, capsules, and oral solution in their original containers.
- Safely throw away ritonavir that is no longer needed or expired (out of date).
- Keep ritonavir and all medicines out of reach of children.
Where can I find more information about ritonavir?
More information about ritonavir is available:
Last Reviewed: September 14, 2012
Last Updated: August 23, 2013