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:
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.
Lamivudine is not approved for the treatment of chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection. 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.
Epivir-HBV is a type of lamivudine used to treat 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 are 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 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 an HBV reverse transcriptase inhibitor, approved by FDA for the treatment of chronic HBV in adults and children 12 years of age and older. HBV is an opportunistic infection. 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 on the use of lamivudine to treat HBV infection in people who are also receiving combination antiretroviral therapy (ART) for HIV infection.
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 a liquid (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 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. (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: September 10, 2015