Lamivudine can cause serious, life-threatening side effects. These include lactic acidosis (buildup of lactic acid in the blood), severe liver problems, and pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) in children at risk for pancreatitis.
Contact your health care provider right away if you have any of the following symptoms that could be signs of lactic acidosis:
Contact your health care provider right away if you have any of the following symptoms that could be signs of severe liver problems:
Call your healthcare provider right away if your child develops signs and symptoms of pancreatitis, including severe upper stomach-area pain, with or without nausea and vomiting.
If you have both HIV and hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection and take lamivudine, your HBV infection may get much worse (flare up) if you stop taking lamivudine. Do not stop taking lamivudine without first talking to your health care provider.
Epivir-HBV is a different type of lamivudine used to treat chronic HBV infection. You should not take Epivir-HBV if you have or may have HIV infection. Epivir-HBV does not contain an appropriate dose of lamivudine for treatment of HIV infection, and using Epivir-HBV could cause a person’s HIV to become less treatable with lamivudine and some other HIV medicines.
Worsening of liver disease (sometimes resulting in death) has occurred in people infected with both HIV and hepatitis C virus (HCV) who were taking HIV medicines and were also being treated for HCV infection with interferon with or without ribavirin. If you are taking lamivudine as well as interferon with or without ribavirin and you experience new side effects, tell your health care provider.
While taking lamivudine, it is important to keep all of your appointments with your health care provider.
Lamivudine is a prescription medicine approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of HIV infection in adults and children 3 months of age and older. Lamivudine is always used in combination with other HIV medicines.
Lamivudine belongs to a class (group) of HIV drugs called nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs). NRTIs block an HIV enzyme called reverse transcriptase. (An enzyme is a protein that starts or increases the speed of a chemical reaction.) By blocking reverse transcriptase, NRTIs prevent HIV from multiplying and can reduce the amount of HIV in the body.
HIV medicines can’t cure HIV/AIDS, but taking a combination of HIV medicines (called an HIV regimen) every day helps people with HIV live longer, healthier lives. HIV medicines also reduce the risk of HIV transmission. If you are taking HIV medicines, including lamivudine, don’t cut down on, skip, or stop taking them unless your health care provider tells you to.
Lamivudine is also effective against hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection in combination with other drugs and may be included in the HIV regimen of a person infected with both HIV and HBV. However, if you have both HIV and HBV infection and take lamivudine, your HBV infection may get much worse (flare up) if you stop taking lamivudine. Do not stop taking lamivudine without first talking to your health care provider. For more information on the HBV-related use of lamivudine, please refer to the HBV section of the Guidelines for the Prevention and Treatment of Opportunistic Infections in HIV-Infected Adults and Adolescents.
Epivir-HBV is a different type of lamivudine approved by FDA for the treatment of chronic HBV infection in adults and children 2 years of age and older. You should not take Epivir-HBV if you have or may have HIV infection. (See the WARNING above.)
Before taking lamivudine, tell your health care provider:
Lamivudine (brand name: Epivir) comes in the following forms and strengths:
Take lamivudine according to your health care provider’s instructions. For children 3 months and older, your healthcare provider will prescribe a dose of lamivudine based on your child’s body weight.
Take lamivudine by mouth, with or without food. Tell your healthcare provider if you have trouble swallowing tablets. Lamivudine also comes as an oral solution.
Always take lamivudine in combination with other HIV medicines.
If you take too much lamivudine, 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 lamivudine, see the FDA drug label from DailyMed. (DailyMed is a federal website that includes the most recent drug labels submitted to FDA.)
If you miss a dose of lamivudine, 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.
Lamivudine may cause side effects. Most side effects from lamivudine are manageable, but a few can be serious. Serious side effects of lamivudine include lactic acidosis (buildup of lactic acid in the blood), severe liver problems, and pancreatitis in children at risk for pancreatitis. (See the WARNING above.)
Other possible side effects of lamivudine include:
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 lamivudine. To learn more about possible side effects of lamivudine, read the drug label or package insert or talk to your health care provider or pharmacist.The AIDSinfo fact sheet on HIV Medicines and Side Effects also includes information that may apply to lamivudine.
More information about lamivudine is available:
Last Reviewed: July 21, 2016