Emtricitabine (Oral)

Overview

Without effective treatment, the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) weakens the patient's immune system and makes it more difficult for their body to fight common illnesses and infections. In some cases, HIV may cause acquired immunodeficiency virus (AIDS), although this is not applicable to every patient.

Although patients may experience flu-like symptoms after contracting HIV, they may not exhibit any symptoms for quite some time after this. Despite a lack of symptoms, the virus still remains active and causes damage to the patient's immune system. As a result of this damage, patients are at increased risk of contracting infections and/or developing life-threatening illnesses, as well as developing symptoms, such as night sweats, chronic diarrhea, weight loss and/or skin problems.

If HIV is diagnosed and treated relatively quickly, however, the damage to the patient's immune system can be limited. By administering the appropriate treatment, physicians can prevent the immune system from being weakened and the patient is then unlikely to experience the advanced symptoms associated with HIV. Effective treatment may also reduce the risk of the patient developing AIDs as a result of the HIV in their system.

In order to cause damage to the immune system, the human immunodeficiency virus replicates within the body. When Emtricitabine is taken, however, this replication process is interrupted and the amount of HIV within the patient's body is, therefore, reduced. Often referred to as the patient's viral load', the amount of HIV in the patient's body may be indicative of how advanced the virus has become. It is believed that patient's with lower viral loads of HIV exhibit fewer symptoms and are less likely to pass the virus on to other people.

As well as inhibiting the replication process of HIV, Emtricitabine is believed to increase the number of T cells or CD4+ T-cells in the patient's system. Also known as immune system cells, this increase can help to suppress negative symptoms and may decrease the chance of patients developing life-threatening illnesses as a result of the human immunodeficiency virus.

Although Emtricitabine can be used to treat patients with HIV, it is a not a cure for the virus. Patients may still develop HIV-related health problems, even if they are being treated with Emtricitabine and other medications. In addition to this, patients should still transfer the virus to other people whilst they are receiving treatment. Despite this, treating patients with Emtricitabine and other medications can significantly improve their quality of life and reduce the symptoms and risks associated with HIV.

Conditions Treated

  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

Type Of Medicine

  • Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitor (NRTI)

Side Effects

The vast majority of medications can cause side-effects in some patients, although certain adverse effects may be more serious than others. When patients first start taking Emtricitabine, they may be more likely to experience side-effects. Often, these will diminish over time and reduce as the patient becomes used to the effects of the medicine. Due to this, mild or non-serious side-effects may not require medical intervention. These may include:

  • Stomach or abdominal pain
  • Depression
  • Abnormal dreams
  • Dizziness
  • Redness or darkening of the skin
  • Headache
  • Indigestion or heartburn
  • Earache
  • Itching skin
  • Swelling or puffiness of the face, tongue, lips, eyelids or around the eyes
  • Welts, hives or rash on the skin
  • Vomiting
  • Swelling of the joints or joint pain
  • Spots on your skin, often resembling a pimple or blister
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Awkwardness or unsteadiness
  • Weakness in the hands, legs, feet and/or arms

Although patients may not require medical treatment for the side-effects listed above, patients should always seek medical help if they are concerned about the presence of any side-effects, particularly if they are severe and/or debilitating.

When taking Emtricitabine, patients may experience additional side-effects and, generally, these do require medical attention. If patients experience any of the following adverse effects, they should seek medical help:

  • Crawling, burning, itching, prickling, numbness, tingling, or "pins and needles feelings
  • Hoarseness or cough
  • Tightness in chest
  • Chest pain
  • Pain in side or lower back
  • Chills or fever
  • Stabbing pain
  • Pale skin
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Unusual weakness or tiredness
  • Painful urination
  • Unusual bruising or bleeding
  • Sensation of pins and needles
  • Pale skin
  • Difficulty breathing with exertion

Although these represent the most common side-effects associated with Emtricitabine, patients should always seek medical help if the develop any side-effects which aren't listed here.

In addition to this, patients may want to notify the Food and Drug Administration if they experience side-effects which are not yet associated with Emtricitabine. If so, patients can contact the FDA on 1-800-FDA-1088.

Dosage

When patients are prescribed Emtricitabine, they will be given dosage and treatment instructions by their physician. Patients should always follow these instructions as they will be tailored to their individual needs. For example, doctors will take into account the patient's medical history, known allergies, other medications, age and weight when prescribing Emtricitabine.

In general, however, adult patients are prescribed 200mg of Emtricitabine to be taken daily, if the medication is taken in capsule form. If pediatric patients are prescribed this form of medication, however, their dose will depend on their weight. If the patient weighs over 33kg and is able to swallow a capsule, they may also be prescribed 200mg of Emtricitabine per day.

Alternatively, patients may be prescribed Emtricitabine as an oral solution. If so, adult patients may be advised to take 240mg or 24 milliliters of this medication per day. For patients between the ages of three months and seventeen years, their dose will depend on their weight. Generally, patients are advised to take 6mg of Emtricitabine per kg of bodyweight. Although the patient's dose may be increased, the maximum dose of Emtricitabine is normally 240mg or 24 milliliters per day.

If infants under the age of three months are prescribed Emtricitabine, their dose will also be dependent on their weight. Typically, doctors will prescribe 3mg of Emtricitabine per kg of bodyweight for patients of this age.

In most cases, patients can take Emtricitabine with or without food, but they should follow any specific instructions their doctor has given. If Emtricitabine is taken as an oral solution, rather than a tablet, patients or caregivers should use a medical syringe, medicine spoon or a measuring cup to determine the appropriate dose. These are more accurate than household spoons and ensure the patient is getting the right dose of medication.

As patients normally take Emtricitabine in conjunction with other medicines, doctors may advise them to take their medication at a certain time of day. Patients should discuss their treatment regime with their doctor to ensure that they are able to adhere to the treatment schedule set out for them.

Even if patients begin to notice an improvement in their symptoms, they should not stop taking Emtricitabine, unless they are advised to do so by a healthcare practitioner. It is important that Emtricitabine is taken regularly in order for it to maintain its effectiveness. Due to this, patients should always request a prescription of Emtricitabine in advance as this ensures that they won't run out of medicine.

If patients miss a dose of Emtricitabine, they should take it as soon as possible. However, if the next dose of medication is almost due, patients should avoid the missed dose completely and continue taking their medicine as normal. It is not appropriate to take a double dose of Emtricitabine, even if a previous dose has been missed.

If patients are unsure how to take Emtricitabine or if they are unsure how to proceed after missing a dose of medicine, they should seek advice from their doctor or pharmacist.

Potential Drug Interactions

As some drugs can interact with others, they may not be prescribed at the same time. Emtricitabine should not be prescribed in conjunction with other medications containing Emtricitabine or Lamivudine, for example. Orlistat is not normally used alongside Emtricitabine, for example, although doctors may prescribe both medications if the benefits outweigh the risks. If so, the patient's dose may be altered to try and prevent an interaction occurring.

Patients should be aware that interactions can occur between vitamins, supplements and over-the-counter medications as well. Due to this, patients should inform their doctor if they regularly take or use these substances before taking Emtricitabine. Patients should also seek medical advice before using over-the-counter medicines, supplements and/or vitamins once they have started taking Emtricitabine and/or any other medications.

Warnings

Before taking any medication, patients should disclose their medical history to their physician. If they have any other existing medical conditions, it may affect their treatment with Emtricitabine. Patients with the following conditions may not be treated with Emtricitabine, for example:

As kidney or liver disease can increase the time it takes for the body to process medicine, patients with these conditions may require a lower dose of Emtricitabine.

Similarly, geriatric patients with age-related liver, heart and/or kidney problems may be given a lower dose of Emtricitabine as it may take them longer to process the medication. Prescribing a lower dose of Emtricitabine prevents the medicine from building up to toxic levels in their system.

Although rare, there are two significant complications which can arise following treatment with Emtricitabine. These are:

  • Liver toxicity, included enlargement of the liver
  • Lactic acidosis

These complications may be more common in patients who are obese and/or female, as well as in patients who have taken medication for HIV for a significant period of time. However, anyone could experience complications as a result of this treatment. If patients experience any of the following symptoms whilst being treated for HIV, they should obtain immediate medical assistance:

  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Stomach pain
  • Upset stomach
  • Light colored bowel movements
  • Extreme weakness or tiredness
  • Brown or dark yellow urine
  • Yellowing of the eyes and/or skin
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Irregular or fast heartbeat
  • Lightheadedness
  • Feeling cold, especially in the arms and/or legs
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle pain which is different from previous muscle pain or aches

When patients are treated with Emtricitabine, they will be monitored regularly. As well as seeing their doctor, they will undergo regular blood tests to determine whether the medication is having the desired effect. These tests will also ensure that the patient's medication isn't having any harmful effects.

Patients should not stop taking Emtricitabine, even temporarily, unless they are advised to do by a doctor. Similarly, patients should not modify their dose of medication or take Emtricitabine sporadically, unless their healthcare practitioner has advised them to.

When patients take Emtricitabine, they may develop an increased amount of body fat. If patients notice that their body is changing shape or that they have excess weight, they should notify their physician. Patients often carry excess weight around the chest area, in their face, in the neck or upper back or on their stomach area. Conversely, patients may lose weight from their arms, legs and/or face whilst they are taking Emtricitabine.

If pregnant patients are treated with Emtricitabine, the medication doesn't pose a known risk to the infant. However, if patients with HIV aren't treated effectively during pregnancy, the virus may be passed on to the baby. Patients should, therefore, notify their physician if they become pregnant and discuss whether treatment Emtricitabine is appropriate for them.

It is not yet known if Emtricitabine can be transferred to an infant via breastfeeding. However, the human immunodeficiency virus is transferred to other people via bodily fluids. Even if the infant is born without HIV, they could contract the virus via breastfeeding. Due to this, mothers with HIV are strongly advised not to breastfeed, regardless of whether they are being treated with Emtricitabine or alternative medicines.

Emtricitabine should help the patient's immune system to become stronger. However, when this happens, previously hidden conditions may become noticeable. If patients develop symptoms of illnesses or infections, they should seek medical advice.

Although Emtricitabine and other medications can reduce the patient's viral load, it will not necessarily prevent them from transmitting HIV to another individual. As HIV can be spread via sexual contact or contaminated blood, patients should take care to not put other individuals at risk of contracting the virus.

HIV is typically transmitted through bodily fluids, such as blood, breast milk, semen and vaginal fluid. Patients should not, therefore, exchange bodily fluids with anyone, even if they have been receiving treatment for some time. Patients should always use condoms when engaging in sexual contact, even if they are in a monogamous relationship.

If patients have any allergies, they should inform their physician prior to taking Emtricitabine. In rare cases, patients may exhibit an allergic reaction whilst taking Emtricitabine. If anaphylaxis occurs, it can prevent the patient from breathing normally and emergency medical assistance must be obtained. Symptoms of an allergy may include:

  • Wheezing
  • Trouble breathing
  • Itching
  • Hives
  • Welts
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Fast heartrate
  • Swelling of the face, tongue, throat, lips and/or mouth

Storage

When patients are prescribed Emtricitabine, they will normally be advised to take the medicine on a daily basis. This means that they will need to store Emtricitabine capsules or oral liquid at home. When doing so, patients should ensure that their medication is kept in a safe and secure location. If children and/or pets are present in the home, for example, it's essential that they cannot access Emtricitabine or other medicines.

Generally, Emtricitabine capsules can be kept at room temperature but should be kept away from heat, light and/or moisture. Emtricitabine oral liquid, however, will normally need to be kept refrigerated. If the oral liquid is not refrigerated, it will need to be thrown away after three months, regardless of how much medicine is left.

If patients are advised to stop taking Emtricitabine or if the medicine reaches its use-by date, patients should dispose of it responsibly. Rather than throwing medication out with household waste, patients should contact their pharmacist or physician's office to access an appropriate disposal route for medicines and medical waste.

Summary

When used in combination with other medicines, Emtricitabine can provide an effective treatment for patients with human immunodeficiency virus. Although there is no cure for the virus, Emtricitabine can prevent damage occurring to the patient's immune system. As a result, the patient is less likely to suffer from the advanced symptoms associated with the virus and may avoid the life-threatening illnesses and infections associated with HIV.