Nucleoside/Nucleotide Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors for HIV
These medicines may be available in other combinations to treat HIV infection.
How It Works
Nucleoside/nucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitors are antiretroviral medicines. They prevent the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) from multiplying. When the amount of virus in the blood is kept at a minimum, the immune system has a chance to recover and grow stronger.
Why It Is Used
The use of three or more antiretroviral medicines (antiretroviral therapy, or ART) is the usual treatment for HIV infection.
The combination of medicines used for ART will depend on your health, other conditions you might have (such as hepatitis), and results of testing. Talk to your doctor about the best treatment plan for you.
Medical experts recommend that people begin treatment for HIV as soon as they know that they are infected.1, 2 Treatment is especially important for pregnant women, people who have other infections (such as tuberculosis or hepatitis), and people who have symptoms of AIDS.
You may also want to start HIV treatment if your sex partner does not have HIV. Treatment of your HIV infection can help prevent the spread of HIV to your sex partner.3
If you do not have HIV, you can take the combination medicine Truvada (tenofovir plus emtricitabine) every day to help protect yourself against getting infected. But you still need to use safer sex practices to keep your risk low.4
The U.S. National Institutes of Health recommends one of the following programs for people who begin treatment for HIV:3
Zidovudine (ZDV), either alone or in combination with other antiretrovirals, is recommended for HIV-infected women who are more than 12 weeks pregnant, to prevent HIV from spreading to the fetus. The baby should also receive treatment for 6 weeks after birth.
How Well It Works
Zidovudine (ZDV), either alone or in combination with other antiretrovirals, reduces the risk of the spread of HIV from an infected mother to her baby.3
The rate at which antiretrovirals decrease viral loads is affected by:3
All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.
Here are some important things to think about:
Call your doctor if you have:
Side effects of these medicines include:
A serious, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction occurs in a small number of people who take abacavir. A screening test (HLA-B*5701 test) is available to help predict who may have a serious reaction to abacavir.7 The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) recommends that anyone who may receive abacavir should get tested for sensitivity to it first.3
Didanosine may cause inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis). This can lead to belly pain and vomiting. This side effect is more common in people who drink alcohol heavily. In rare cases, didanosine can also cause serious liver damage.
In rare cases emtricitabine causes severe liver problems.
People who are infected with hepatitis B may have a flare-up of the illness if they suddenly stop taking certain nucleoside/nucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitors.
Side effects of any combination medicine can include the side effects of any of the single medicines in the combination.
Report all side effects to your doctor at your next visit. He or she can adjust your dose or give you other medicines to reduce side effects. Some mild side effects, such as nausea, improve as your body adjusts to the medicine.
Many people think that antiretroviral medicines always have severe side effects. In fact, only a few people experience severe side effects.
See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)
What To Think About
Factors to consider when choosing a combination of medicines include:
Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.
There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.
Advice for women
If you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant, do not use any medicines unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines can harm your baby. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. And make sure that all your doctors know that you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise
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