Generic emtricitabine is a nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor highly effective in the treatment and prevention of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in adults and children. When taken correctly, this drug reduces the viral load to a point where it gets undetectable. Want to know more about emtricitabine and its mechanism of action? Read more.
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Emtricitabine alone cannot control HIV. However, when used alongside some other anti-HIV agents, it can help decrease the amount of HIV in a patient’s body, thus enabling the immune system to function better. A sound immune system decreases the chances of getting opportunistic infections such as cancer.
Emtricitabine is an FDA-approved (Food and Drug Administration) anti-HIV medicine for the control or management of HIV/AIDS. Beyond treating HIV, this drug is also effective in treating opportunistic infections of HIV (an opportunistic infection is an infection that troubles people whose immune system are weak) “off-label.” A drug is said to be used off-label if it is taken in some other way than described on the drug label to treat some health conditions.
Through randomized studies, the effectiveness of emtricitabine as an anti-HIV medicine has been demonstrated. The drug greatly reduces the viral load in infected individuals to levels where it becomes undetectable. Emtricitabine effectively controls HIV-1, HIV-2 and even reduced the viral load of hepatitis B (HBV).
Though emtricitabine is not approved as a treatment for hepatitis B by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it has been found that it effectively treats people co-infected with both HIV and HBV. In fact, 94% of patients co-infected had their viral load reduced to an undetectable level.
Emtricitabine is better tolerated compared to some other drugs (stavudine, for example) and it offers a longer lasting response as well.
When HIV gets into a healthy cell, it tries to replicate (multiply in number). However, to do this it needs an enzyme that is known as reverse transcriptase.
Emtricitabine works by inhibiting this enzyme, thereby reducing the multiplication of HIV and viral load widespread in the body. This inhibition halts the replication of HIV, thereby decreasing the viral load and in certain cases, indirectly increases the number of immune system cells, T cells. A stronger immune system translates to a better quality of life, as the chances of opportunistic infections, such as cancer, surfacing will be lower.
Though emtricitabine helps to control HIV, certain precautions have to be taken to prevent any complications. Here are a few precautions:
They have been found to be more common in females who are overweight and have been on anti-HIV medications for a long while. Signs associated with these conditions include dark urine, cramping, yellow eyes/skin, difficulty breathing, or light-colored stools. If any of these signs are experienced, reports should be made to a doctor immediately.
Emtriva treatment is suspended when clinical or laboratory findings suggest a patient developed lactic acidosis or liver toxicity.
The capsule or solution is to be taken orally once per day. Administration can go on with or without food:
It is very important that all underlying medical conditions (kidney problems, liver problems, pregnancy, or plans to get pregnant) are reported to a doctor while taking emtricitabine. Do not miss or change a dose of emtricitabine.
In cases where overdosing occurs, patients are put under close supervision to check for toxicity and standard treatment procedure is followed. Hemodialysis treatment is often used for purifying the blood in cases of an overdose. This procedure ejects approximately 30% of the drug over a dialysis period lasting about 3 hours, commencing at 1.5 hours of dosing, with the blood flow rate of 400 ml/min and a dialysate flow rate of 600 ml/min.
In the event of an overdose of emtricitabine, the local poison control center or emergency room should be contacted.
Adverse effects that may be experienced with the use of this drug include: fatigue, vomiting, dizziness, weakness, stomach pain, rash, nausea, sleep problems, skin discoloration, and strange dreams.
However, not all users of emtricitabine get to experience these side effects. For some users, discomforts may surface only during the starting period of using the drug. They are found to disappear over time with continuous use.
Regardless, it is advised that all adverse effects, no matter how little, be reported to a healthcare provider immediately. The healthcare provider may provide tips on how to manage the side effects, or stop them.
Emtriva in combination with Indinavir, d4T, famciclovir (Famvir), tenofovir (Viread) has been extensively studied to check for reactions. Till now, no serious interactions have been discovered to occur between these drugs and emtricitabine. Generally, the probability of this drug interacting with other drugs, food, and supplements is very low. However, Lamivudine (an antiretroviral drug used also in HIV treatment and prevention) is similar to and should not be taken with emtricitabine. It’s advisable not to take other HIV products that contain emtricitabine when it’s been administered already, to avoid overdosing.
Consumers have given good recommendations regarding the use of emtricitabine. A majority of them have attested to its effectiveness in suppressing HIV viral load (when used in combination with other HIV meds) until it becomes undetectable. Also, its use is of little burden because only one capsule is taken in a day, one user stated.
In the area of adverse effects, some generic emtricitabine users laid complaints about experiencing certain discomforts such as headaches, dizziness, vomiting, and fatigue during the initial use of the drug. However, a good number of them added that with continuous use (average of 2 to 3 weeks), the side effects dwindled.
There are certain ways anti-HIV drugs are meant to be used (this may vary depending on the drug in question). If prescriptions are not followed, the drug might not work effectively and desired results may not be achieved. Even worse, complications may arise due to incorrect usage.
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