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What Is Emtriva®?

Hepatomegaly (liver enlargement) is a less common side effect of Emtriva.
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  • Written By: Amy Hunter
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 21 September 2014
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Emtriva® is a nucleoside reverse transriptase inhibitor (NRTI) class of medication used in the treatment of HIV and AIDS. Also known as FTC, or emtricitabine, Emtriva® is always combined with other antiretroviral drugs to fight HIV. It is important to note that it does not prevent infection or reduce the risk of spreading the disease and is not a cure. NRTI medications work by blocking the process that HIV uses to multiply. The medication does not treat the cells already infected by the virus, it prevents the HIV from being able to use healthy cell's DNA to replicate.

Capsules and liquid are the primary forms of Emtriva®. The recommended dosage for adults is 200 mg, once a day, although some people require a lower dosage. Not all patients respond well to the medication. Healthcare providers use phenotype and genotype testing to determine if Emtriva® is a good choice for the individual.

Common side effects include discoloration of the skin on the palms and soles, a rash, headaches, nausea, and insomnia. Less common side effects are lactic acidosis and severe hepatomegaly with steatosis, which can be fatal. Lactic acidosis is a condition where lactic acid builds up in the muscles quicker than it can be removed, leading to weakness and nausea.

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Hepatomegaly with steatosis is very rare and typically develops alongside lactic acidosis. The liver cells are damaged, allowing fat to build up inside the cells, and the liver becomes enlarged. Symptoms include difficulty breathing, with either shortness of breath or rapid breathing, as well as severe stomach pain, nausea and vomiting.

Researchers are working to determine if this medication is an effective treatment for Hepatitis B. Some patients that have both HIV and Hepatitis B find that their Hepatitis B symptoms worsen if they discontinue treatment with Emtriva®. For this reason, it is important for patients to take Emtriva® as prescribed, to maintain adequate levels of the medication in the blood. Stopping Emtriva® for even a short period of time can allow the virus to replicate in the body.

Emtriva®, can be taken with or without food. The healthcare provider needs to know if the patient has any blood disorders, kidney disease, is pregnant, or is breastfeeding. Patients often find that antiviral therapy, including Entriva®, can lead to wasting syndrome, redistribution of body fat, and breast enlargement.

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