Meds and you

27 September 2013


Lamivudine is an antiretroviral. Antiretrovirals are drugs that suppress the activity or replication of retroviruses such as HIV.


(Also known as 3TC)

Lamivudine is the active ingredient of 3TC tablets (Nappi Code: 821632-019), 3TC solution (Nappi Code: 821640-003), Adco-Lamivudine tablets (Nappi Code: 707962-001), Aspen Lamivudine tablets (Nappi Code: 703716-001), Aspen Lamivudine oral solution (Nappi Code: 703715-001, Cipla-Lamivudine tablets (Nappi Code: 701282-003), Cipla-Lamivudine oral solution (Nappi Code: 704041-001, 704041-002), Sonke-Lamivudine tablets (Nappi Code: 703378-001).

General information,br> Lamivudine is an antiretroviral. Antiretrovirals are drugs that suppress the activity or replication of retroviruses such as HIV. This specific antiviral is classified as a nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor, meaning that it blocks an enzyme which is essential for the retrovirus to multiply.

In South Africa lamivudine is registered for the treatment and post-exposure prevention of infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), often in combination with other antiretroviral drugs. It is also used to prevent mother-to-child transfer of the virus shortly before, during, and immediately after birth.

If not treated, HIV will advance to weaken the body's immune system, gradually chipping away to create grounds for other infections which the body will find more and more difficult to protect itself against. HIV develops into acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) when your immune system has been severely weakened.

For lamivudine to be effective it has to be taken regularly. By skipping even a few doses the risk for treatment failure increases substantially. Try to ensure that you take all your doses, and at the correct time.

It should be understood that Lamivudine is not a cure for HIV or AIDS, but is one of a variety of drugs that only restricts the advance of the virus, keeping the immune system up-and-running. It is used in combination with other antiretroviral drugs and should not be prescribed on its own.

Lamivudine does not reduce transmission of HIV; you can still infect another person with the virus and the use of appropriate precautions to prevent spread to other persons is highly recommended.

How does lamivudine work?
When HIV infects a human T cell, a type of white blood cell that plays a key role in the functioning of the immune system, viral genetic information in the form of RNA needs to be converted to DNA for the virus to have any effect. It makes use of an enzyme called reverse transcriptase to achieve this conversion. Lamivudine targets and inhibits this enzyme, thus preventing the spread of HIV.

Fast facts

Drug schedule: schedule 4
Available as: lamivudine is available as tablets and oral solution.
What does it do? Lamivudine is an anti-viral drug.
Overdose risk: medium
Dependence risk: low
Is lamivudine available as a generic? yes
Is lamivudine available on prescription only? yes

User information

Dietary advice: lamivudine may be taken with or without food.
Stopping this medicine: do not stop taking this drug without consulting your doctor.
Prolonged use: side-effects may develop with long-term use; frequent blood tests may be required with prolonged therapy to prevent serious blood disorders and to determine liver function.

Special precautions
Consult your doctor before using this drug if:

Pregnancy: avoid. It is unknown how this medication may affect your baby. Consult your doctor before using this drug, or if you are planning to fall pregnant.
Breastfeeding: avoid. Not only can HIV infection be passed to your baby through breast milk, but lamivudine is also present and transmitted in breast milk.
Porphyria: avoid. This medication may cause serious adverse effects. Consult your doctor before use.
The elderly: caution is advised in the elderly as side effects may be more severe.
Infants and children: safe for short-term use in therapeutic doses.
Driving and hazardous work: no special precautions need to be taken.
Alcohol: avoid concomitant use of alcohol with this medication.

Possible side effects

Side Effect
Consult your doctor

Only if severe
In all cases




abdominal pain







muscle pain


numbness of fingers/toes


skin rash




Food interactions

azathioprine increased risk of pancreatitis
co-trimoxazole slight risk of lamivudine toxicity

Disease interactions
Contact your doctor in case of liver/kidney disease or if you have been diagnosed with an inflammatory pancreatic condition.

Overdose action
Lamivudine, when taken in overdose, is capable of causing serious consequences. Seek immediate medical attention.

Recommended dosage
Adults: oral, 300 mg/day in 2 divided doses

This material is not intended to substitute medical advice, but is for informational purposes only. Please consult a physician for specific treatment and recommendations.

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