Emtriva (Emtricitabine) - Oral

Warning:

Worsening hepatitis B virus (HBV) has occurred in people with both HIV and HBV once stopping Emtriva (emtricitabine). If you have HBV and HIV, you may need to be monitored for several months after discontinuing treatment for Emtriva. If needed, you'll receive HBV therapy.

What Is Emtriva?

Emtriva (emtricitabine) is an antiviral prescription-only oral medication used to treat human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

It belongs to a drug class known as nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors, which works by blocking reverse transcriptase, an enzyme that copies HIV RNA into new viral DNA. This means that Emtriva prevents the virus from replicating within the body, which decreases the amount of HIV in the blood.

Emtriva comes in two forms used in combination with other antiviral medicines. It is commercially available through prescription only as an oral capsule and solution.

Drug Facts

Generic Name: Emtricitabine

Brand Name(s): Emtriva

Drug Availability: Prescription

Administration Route: Oral

Therapeutic Classification: Antiretroviral agent

Available Generically: Yes

Controlled Substance: N/A

Active Ingredient: Emtricitabine

Dosage Form(s): Capsule, solution

What Is Emtriva Used For?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Emtriva to treat HIV-1 infection. Although it will not cure the condition, Emtriva can lower the amount of HIV in the blood and increase immune cells. This can help prevent HIV transmission and decrease your risk of developing AIDS or other serious health complications.

How to Take Emtriva

Follow the drug label instructions to get the most optimal results from taking this medication. Emtriva is taken as an oral tablet of 200 milligrams (mg) or an oral solution of 240 milligrams. Take it by mouth as prescribed, usually once daily, with or without food.

Be sure to swallow the Emtriva capsules whole; do not chew, break, or crush these. For oral solutions, prepare the dose carefully by using the measuring device that comes with the medication.

Storage

Store Emtriva at room temperature (67 F to 77 F) in a dry place. Do not keep this medication in the bathroom or kitchen.

Off-Label Uses

Healthcare providers may prescribe Emtriva for reasons other than what has been approved by the FDA. This is known as off-label use.

Emtriva is sometimes used off-label to treat: 

  • HIV-1 nonoccupational postexposure prophylaxis (nPEP): nPEP refers to the delivery of antiretroviral therapy (ART) to individuals who have experienced nonoccupational exposure to HIV within the past 72 hours. This means that Emtriva can be used to lower the risk of getting HIV if started soon after possible exposure. Examples of nonoccupational exposure may include condomless sex or exposure to bodily fluids through the skin when the known source has HIV or has a risk of having HIV. Emtriva for nPEP is taken as a 200-milligram capsule for 28 days in combination with other ART agents as a three-drug regimen. 
  • HIV-1 occupational postexposure prophylaxis (oPEP): Similar to nPEP, oPEP refers to the delivery of ART to individuals who have experienced occupational exposure that may place them at risk for HIV transmission within the past 72 hours. Examples of occupational exposure may include a needlestick injury within a healthcare setting. Emtriva is also taken in its 200-milligram capsule for four weeks in combination with other ART medications.

What Are the Side Effects of Emtriva?

Generally, Emtriva is well tolerated in people. However, it may cause some side effects in certain individuals. It’s important to be aware of Emtriva’s possible side effects and severity.

This is not a complete list of side effects, and others may occur. A healthcare provider can advise you on side effects. If you experience other effects, contact your healthcare provider. You may report side effects to the FDA at fda.gov/medwatch or 1-800-FDA-1088.

Common Side Effects

The most common side effects of Emtriva include:

  • Dizziness
  • Depression 
  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Gastrointestinal effects such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or stomach pain
  • Headache 
  • Insomnia (trouble sleeping)
  • Stuffy or runny nose (rhinitis)
  • Weakness

These side effects are typically not alarming and will resolve after continuous use. Let your healthcare provider know if they become bothersome or do not go away.

Severe Side Effects

Although rare, call your healthcare provider immediately if you experience any severe side effects. Call 911 if your symptoms feel life-threatening or if you think you’re having a medical emergency.

Serious side effects and their symptoms can include the following:

  • Lactic acidosis: This refers to when lactic acid builds up in the blood. Lactic acid can build up in the body when oxygen levels in the body are very low. Symptoms can include fast breathing, shortness of breath, fatigue, severe dizziness, or muscle pain.  
  • Liver issues: This is characterized by dark urine, fatigue, nausea, and vomiting. 
  • Depression 
  • Skin discoloration 
  • Infection

Report Side Effects

Emtriva may cause other side effects. Call your healthcare provider if you have any unusual problems while taking this medication.

If you experience a serious side effect, you or your healthcare provider may send a report to the FDA's MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting Program or by phone (800-332-1088).

Dosage: How Much Emtriva Should I Take?

Drug Content Provided and Reviewed by IBM Micromedex®

The dose of this medicine will be different for different patients. Follow your doctor's orders or the directions on the label. The following information includes only the average doses of this medicine. If your dose is different, do not change it unless your doctor tells you to do so.

The amount of medicine that you take depends on the strength of the medicine. Also, the number of doses you take each day, the time allowed between doses, and the length of time you take the medicine depend on the medical problem for which you are using the medicine.

  • For treatment of HIV infection:
    • For oral dosage form (capsules):
      • Adults—200 milligrams (mg) once a day.
      • Children 3 months to 17 years of age and weighs more than 33 kilograms (kg) who can swallow an intact capsule—200 mg once a day.
      • Children younger than 3 months of age or weighs less than 33 kg—Use and dose must be determined by your doctor.
    • For oral dosage form (solution):
      • Adults—240 milligrams (mg) or 24 milliliters (mL) once a day.
      • Children 3 months to 17 years of age—Dose is based on body weight and must be determined by your doctor. The dose is usually 6 milligrams (mg) per kilograms (kg) of body weight per day. Your doctor may increase your dose as needed. However, the dose is usually not more than 240 mg (24 mL) per day.
      • Children up to 3 months of age—Dose is based on body weight and must be determined by your doctor. The dose is usually 3 mg per kg of body weight per day.

Modifications

Dosing changes may be necessary based on age. These adjustments are segmented into the following age groups:

  • Children 0 to 3 months old
  • Children 3 months to 17 years
  • Adults 18 and older

People with kidney issues may also need a different dosage based on their level of kidney impairment. Your healthcare provider will determine the appropriate dosage based on your kidney function.

You should not breastfeed while being treated with Emtriva. It is not recommended to breastfeed if you have been diagnosed with HIV, as there is still a risk of the virus being transmitted to the infant through human milk.

Missed Dose

If you miss a dose, take it as soon as you remember. If it is almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and continue your regular dosing schedule. Do not take extra doses or multiple doses at the same time. Contact your healthcare provider or pharmacist for advice if you have missed several doses or an entire day’s worth of treatment.

Overdose: What Happens If I Take Too Much Emtriva?

There are limited human data on the effects of an Emtriva overdose. Contact a healthcare provider or the Poison Control Center if you think you have taken too much of this medication.

What Happens If I Overdose on Emtriva?

If you think you or someone else may have overdosed on Emtriva, call a healthcare provider or the Poison Control Center (800-222-1222).

If someone collapses or isn't breathing after taking Emtriva, call 911 immediately.

Precautions

Drug Content Provided and Reviewed by IBM Micromedex®

It is very important that your doctor check your or your child's progress at regular visits to make sure that this medicine is working properly. Blood and urine tests may be needed to check for unwanted effects.

Do not use this medicine if you or your child are also taking lamivudine, Atripla®, Combivir®, Complera®, Epivir®, Epivir-HBV®, Epzicom®, Odefsey®, Stribild®, Triumeq®, Trizivir®, or Truvada®. Tell your doctor right away if you or your child are using any of these medicines. Do not start using emtricitabine until your doctor tells you to.

Two rare but serious reactions to this medicine are lactic acidosis (build up of acid in the blood) and liver toxicity. These are more common if you are female, very overweight (obese), or have been taking anti-HIV medicines for a long time. Call your doctor right away if you or your child have abdominal or stomach discomfort or cramping, dark urine, a decreased appetite, diarrhea, general feeling of discomfort, light-colored stools, muscle cramping or pain, nausea, unusual tiredness or weakness, trouble breathing, vomiting, or yellow eyes or skin.

Do not change your dose or stop using this medicine, even for a short time, without talking to your doctor.

Check with your doctor right away if you have bloody urine, a decrease in frequency or amount of urine, an increase in blood pressure, increased thirst, loss of appetite, lower back or side pain, nausea, swelling of the face, fingers, or lower legs, troubled breathing, unusual tiredness or weakness, vomiting, or weight gain. These could be symptoms of a serious kidney problem.

Your immune system may get stronger when you start using HIV medicines. Tell your doctor right away if you notice any changes in your health. Sometimes the immune system will start to fight infections that were hidden in your body, such as pneumonia, herpes, or tuberculosis. Autoimmune disorders (eg, Graves' disease, polymyositis, and Guillain-Barré syndrome) may also occur.

This medicine does not decrease the risk of transmitting the HIV infection to others through sexual contact or by contaminated blood. Make sure you understand and practice safe sex, even if your partner also has HIV. Avoid sharing needles with anyone.

What Are Reasons I Shouldn’t Take Emtriva?

You should not take this medication if you are allergic to any of its ingredients.

What Other Medications Interact With Emtriva?

Emtriva has minor drug interactions. It is important to let your healthcare provider know if you are taking any other prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications, vitamins, or herbal supplements.

Medications that may interact with Emtriva include:

  • Mavenclad (cladribine): Mavenclad is a chemotherapy medication that stops the growth of cancer cells. Use with Emtriva can reduce the effects of this drug. 
  • Xenical, Alli (orlistat): Orlistat is used to treat obesity; it can reduce the effectiveness of Emtriva by lowering its concentration in the body. 

What Medications Are Similar?

Emtriva is within a class of medications called nucleoside/nucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitors, or NRTIs.

Other single-agent NRTI medications that have been approved by the FDA to treat HIV include:

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is Emtriva used for?

    Emtriva is an antiretroviral drug used for the treatment of HIV infection.

  • How does Emtriva work?

    As a nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor, Emtriva prevents HIV from multiplying in the body and stops further damage to the immune system.

  • Does Emtriva cure HIV?

    No, there is currently no cure for HIV. Emtriva helps suppress the virus in people living with HIV, which prevents the development of AIDS and other health complications.

How to Stay Healthy While Taking Emtriva?

An HIV diagnosis can be overwhelming and scary. However, thanks to advances in treatment, people with HIV can live longer than before, especially when ART is initiated early.

Staying on top of your medication regimen is key to keeping your HIV under control and preventing complications. There are many HIV treatments available, with Emtriva being one of them. You should stay on your prescribed medications, no matter how good or healthy you feel. Reach out to your healthcare team if you have difficulty keeping up with your current regimen.

In addition to taking HIV medication, there are other ways to stay healthy while living with the virus, such as:

  • Quitting cigarettes
  • Getting recommended vaccinations
  • Regular exercise
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Finding a support group

Medical Disclaimer

Verywell Health's drug information is meant for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a healthcare provider. Consult your healthcare provider before taking any new medication(s). IBM Watson Micromedex provides some of the drug content, as indicated on the page.

8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. MedlinePlus. Emtricitabine.

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  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Updated guidelines for antiretroviral postexposure prophylaxis after sexual, injection drug use, or other nonoccupational exposure to HIV— United States, 2016.

  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

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