Abacavir: uses and side effects

Abacavir is a drug prescribed for the treatment of AIDS in adults and children over 3 months of age. It is always given in conjunction with other medications designed for the treatment of HIV infection.

This drug, used against HIV, belongs to the group of reverse transcriptase inhibitors, nucleoside analogues.

These drugs they owe their effectiveness to blocking an enzyme in the virus that causes AIDS, called reverse transcriptase. By blocking this enzyme, which is a protein, these drugs prevent the multiplication of the virus and can reduce its concentration in the body.

It is very important to keep in mind that anti-HIV drugs can not cure the disease. Taking a combination of these medications on a daily basis, appropriate for each patient, helps carriers to have a longer life. Therefore, the HIV treatment regimen chronifies the disease, but does not cure it. It also reduces the risk of transmitting it.

What is HIV and AIDS?

To understand how abacavir works, It is important to know some basic aspects of the indication for which it is used: HIV infection or AIDS.

Many people confuse the terms HIV and AIDS; it is fundamental to differentiate them:

  • HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, is a microorganism which may be in the body triggering a clinical picture or not. It attacks the immune system, weakening it. Due, the organism loses little by little the capacity to defend itself from infections or other diseases.
  • AIDS, or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, is triggered when a person has been infected with HIV for many years.

Nowadays, most people who are diagnosed early with this infection, and take anti-HIV drugs, such as abacavir, can lead long and satisfying lives.

How is AIDS transmitted?

The hiv It is spread when blood, or infected body fluids, enter the body of another person. This can occur by:

Read also: A monthly injection could replace the daily treatment against HIV

Side effects of abacavir

Like all medications, Abacavir can also trigger a series of adverse effects that must be taken into account when administering it.

If you suffer any of the symptoms of an allergic reaction such as the following, you should consult your doctor immediately and stop taking abacavir:

  • Fever.
  • Rash.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Diarrhea and stomach pain.
  • Sensation of general malaise.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Cough and sore throat.

Lactic acidosis

In addition to those mentioned, abacavir produces a characteristic adverse clinical picture called lactic acidosis, or accumulation of lactic acid in the blood. The symptoms that accompany this pathology are:

  • Muscle pain and weakness
  • Numbness or cold feeling in the arms and legs.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Stomach pain, nausea and vomiting.
  • Tachycardia.
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness and fatigue.

Liver problems

This antiviral also can trigger a series of serious effects on the liver. Therefore, you should contact your doctor if you are taking abacavir and have any of the following symptoms:

  • Pain in the upper part of the stomach.
  • Itch.
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dark urine.
  • Stools of clay color.
  • Jaundice: pigmentation of the skin and mucous membranes of a yellowish color.

Discover: 11 signs of toxicity in the liver

Other side effects

Apart from those mentioned, abacavir it can also trigger other adverse effects such as changes in the immune system or an increased risk of heart attack or myocardial infarction.

Regarding changes in the immune system, collectively called inflammatory immune reconstitution syndrome or IRIS, it is a condition that sometimes occurs when this defense system begins to recover after treatment with an anti-HIV drug, such as abacavir.

As the immune system strengthens, may have a more intense reaction to an infection, triggering a series of symptoms.


Abacavir is a drug indicated for HIV infection. However, neither this nor other antiviral drugs are able, nowadays, to definitively cure this disease. What they do is chronify it and allow the patient to recover quality of life and significantly prolong survival.