Drugs

Lamivudine

Lamivudine

Brand Name: Epivir Other Names: 3TC Drug Class: Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors

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What are the most important things to know about lamivudine?

What are the most important things to know about lamivudine?

Lamivudine can cause serious, life-threatening side effects. These include a buildup of lactic acid in the blood (lactic acidosis), severe liver problems, and inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis) 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:

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

Contact your health care provider right away if you have any of the following symptoms that could be signs of severe 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, aching, or tenderness on the right side of your stomach area

Call your health care provider right away if your child develops signs and symptoms of pancreatitis, including severe pain in the upper stomach area with or without nausea and vomiting. 

If you have both HIV and hepatitis B virus infection (HBV) 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 enough lamivudine to effectively treat HIV infection. If you have both HIV and HBV, you should not use Epivir-HBV to treat your infections. 

Worsening of liver disease (sometimes resulting in death) has occurred in people living with both HIV and hepatitis C virus infection (HCV) who were taking HIV medicines and 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.

What is lamivudine?

What is lamivudine?

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 group of HIV drugs called nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs). NRTIs block an HIV enzyme called reverse transcriptase. 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 treatment 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 infection (HBV) in combination with other drugs and may be included in the HIV regimen of a person living 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 section above: What are the most important things to know about lamivudine?)

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

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

Before taking lamivudine, tell your health care provider:

  • If you are allergic to lamivudine or any other medicines.
  • If you have or have had liver problems, including HBV or hepatitis C virus infection (HCV).
  • If you have kidney problems.
  • If you have diabetes. Each 15-mL dose (150 mg) of lamivudine oral solution contains three grams of sucrose (common table sugar).
  • If you have any other medical conditions.
  • If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. Taking lamivudine during pregnancy has not been associated with an increased risk of birth defects, but tell your health care provider if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant while taking lamivudine.
  • If you are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. Do not breastfeed if you have HIV or are taking lamivudine.
  • If you are using hormone-based birth control (such as pills, implants, or vaginal rings). For more information about using birth control and HIV medicines at the same time, view the AIDSinfo HIV and Birth Control infographic.
  • About other prescription and nonprescription medicines, vitamins, nutritional supplements, and herbal products you are taking or plan to take. Lamivudine may affect the way other medicines or products work, and other medicines or products may affect how lamivudine works. Taking lamivudine together with certain medicines or products may cause serious, life-threatening side effects.

How should I take lamivudine?

How should I take lamivudine?

Lamivudine (brand name: Epivir) comes in the following forms and strengths:

  • 150-mg tablets
  • 300-mg tablets
  • 10-mg/mL oral solution

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

For children 3 months and older, their health care provider will prescribe a dose of lamivudine based on their body weight.

Take lamivudine by mouth, with or without food. Tell your health care 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.

What should I do if I forget a dose?

What should I do if I forget a dose?

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.

What side effects can lamivudine cause?

What side effects can lamivudine cause?

Lamivudine may cause side effects. Many side effects from HIV medicines, such as nausea or occasional dizziness, are manageable. See the AIDSinfo fact sheet on HIV Medicines and Side Effects for more information.

Some side effects of lamivudine can be serious. Serious side effects of lamivudine include a buildup of lactic acid in the blood (lactic acidosis), severe liver problems, and inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis) in children at risk for pancreatitis. (See section above: What are the most important things to know about lamivudine?)

Other possible side effects of lamivudine include:

  • Changes in your immune system (called immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome or IRIS). IRIS is a condition that sometimes occurs when the immune system begins to recover after treatment with an HIV medicine. As the immune system gets stronger, it may have an increased response to a previously hidden infection. 

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.

You can report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088 (1-800-332-1088) or online.

How should lamivudine be stored?

How should lamivudine be stored?

  • Store lamivudine tablets and oral solution at room temperature, 68°F to 77°F (20°C to 25°C).
  • Keep lamivudine oral solution in the container that it came in and keep the container tightly closed.
  • Do not use lamivudine if the original seal over the container opening is broken or missing.
  • Throw away lamivudine that is no longer needed or expired (out of date). Follow FDA guidelines on how to safely dispose of unused medicine.
  • Keep lamivudine and all medicines out of reach of children.

Where can I find more information about lamivudine?

Where can I find more information about lamivudine?

More information about lamivudine is available:

Manufacturer Information

ViiV Healthcare

Main number: 877-844-8872
Patient assistance (ViiV Connect): 844-588-3288

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

Last Reviewed: July 10, 2018