Meds and you

Updated 11 February 2013


Abacavir is also one of multiple active ingredients found in Trizivar (Abacavir + Lamivudine + zidovudine).


(Also known as ABC)

Abacavir is the active ingredient of Ziagen.

Abacavir is also one of multiple active ingredients found in Trizivar (Abacavir + Lamivudine + zidovudine).

General Information

Abacavir is indicated for the treatment of HIV infection. If not treated, the human immunodeficiency virus (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. Abacavir is not a cure for HIV or Aids, but is one of a variety of drugs that 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.

For abacavir to remain effective, adequate levels of the drug should be maintained in the blood by not missing a dose. Should a dose be missed it should be taken as soon as you remember. If the next dose is almost due, skip the missed dose and take the next dose on schedule. Do not take two doses at once.

Abacavir 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 abacavir 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. Abacavir, a reverse transcriptase inhibitor, targets and inhibits this enzyme, thus preventing the spread of HIV.

Fast facts

Drug schedule: Schedule 4

Available as: Abacavir is available as tablets and oral solution

What does it do? Abacavir is an antiviral drug

Overdose risk: Low

Dependence risk: Low

Is abacavir available as a generic? No

Is abacavir available on prescription only? Yes

User information

Dietary advice: Abacavir may be taken with or without food. Alcohol may however increase the risk of toxicity

Stopping this medicine: If you are instructed to stop taking abacavir, do not restart it in future as a severe allergic reaction is possible, even if you've never experienced signs of an allergic reaction before.

Prolonged use: Frequent blood tests may be required with prolonged therapy as a potential decrease in liver function and lactic acidosis have been reported

Special precautions

Consult your doctor before using this drug if you have known liver or kidney problems.

Pregnancy: Avoid. Animal studies have revealed adverse effects in the foetus. Both patient and prescriber should understand that the drug carries a risk. It is recommended to consult your doctor should you plan to become pregnant.

Breastfeeding: Avoid. Not only can HIV infection be passed to your baby through breast milk, but abacavir is also present and transmitted in breast milk.

Porphyria: Avoid. It is unknown how this medication may affect your condition. Consult your doctor before use.

Infants and children: Safe for short-term use in therapeutic doses. Safety and efficacy in infants under 3 months have not been established

Driving and hazardous work: Caution is advised as use of this medication may lead to dizziness, light-headedness and/or sedation. Avoid such activities until you know how this medication affects you.

Alcohol: Concurrent use of abacavir and alcohol-containing products may result in increased concentrations of abacavir in the body with an increased risk of toxicity

Possible side effects

Side effect


Consult your doctor



Only if severe

In all cases

Skin rash



Skin peeling









Abdominal pain



Nausea/ vomiting






Muscle pain






Shortness of breath / cough



Sore throat



Weight gain



Muscle wasting




Food interactions:


Severe and potentially fatal liver damage

Disease interactions

Contact your doctor in case of liver/kidney disease or a history of alcohol abuse

Overdose action

Abacavir when taken in overdose may have serious consequences Seek immediate medical attention

Recommended dosage

Adults: 300 mg twice a day in combination with other HIV medication

Children 3 months - 16 years of age: 8 mg/kg bodyweight twice a day not exceeding 300 mg twice daily. Used in combination with other HIV medication


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