Active Ingredients

Lamivudine – Effect, Application & Risks


The active ingredient lamivudine is used to treat the immune deficiency disease AIDS and hepatitis B infections. It belongs to the drug group of antivirals .

What is HIV infection?

Lamivudine is a nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NRTI) that forms a chemical analogue of cytidine , which is a nucleoside . The drug is used to treat HIV-1 infections such as AIDS. Although the drug cannot cure the disease, it does extend the life expectancy of patients.

Lamivudine is manufactured by the British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline. The antiviral has been used in Germany since 1995. It is now one of the most commonly used nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors in the treatment of HIV infection . It is often combined with abacavir (ABC), which also belongs to the NRTI.

Pharmacological action

Lamivudine is a so-called prodrug. What is meant by this is an active ingredient precursor that is not effective against the virus . It is only inside the organism that it is converted into the actually effective drug. This has the ability to inhibit the enzyme reverse transcriptase. With this effect, the multiplication of the HI virus is stopped. By lowering the number of viruses in the blood , the number of special white blood cells such as CD4-positive T-lymphocytes increases at the same time . This process leads to a stronger immune system in the body.

A disadvantage of lamivudine is that the HI virus quickly develops an insensitivity to the individual active substance due to its high adaptability. To avoid this resistance, the antiviral is combined with other active ingredients. In the context of AIDS therapy, three active ingredients are usually used at the same time.

The enzyme reverse transcriptase is also important for the hepatitis B virus (HBV) to be able to multiply. When lamivudine is administered to treat hepatitis B, it reduces the virus and relieves the liver . If chronic hepatitis B is present, the patient receives lamivudine as a single preparation. The dosage is lower than that used to treat HIV infection.

The oral bioavailability of lamivudine is classified as high at around 80 percent. There are hardly any influences from the intake of food. The plasma half-life of the drug is about six hours. It is broken down exclusively via the kidneys .

Medical Application & Use

Lamivudine is used to fight the human immunodeficiency virus HIV, which causes AIDS. In some cases, the antiviral also ensures that the disease only breaks out at a later point in time. Basically, the drug increases the life expectancy of AIDS patients and improves their quality of life.

Furthermore, lamivudine is suitable for the treatment of hepatitis B. The drug counteracts the risk of liver cirrhosis . Sometimes it is even possible for the disease to heal. If a liver transplant has been done, lamivudine reduces re-infection of the organ with hepatitis B virus that is still in the body.

The antiviral is administered in the form of tablets. Their dose is between 100 and 300 milligrams. A solution can also be taken. As a rule, the patient receives lamivudine once or twice a day, regardless of meals.

Risks & side effects

Although lamivudine is generally well tolerated, various undesirable side effects are still possible. These primarily include limitations in performance, tiredness , headache , chills , fever , swelling of the lymph nodes , ]]diarrhea]], nausea , vomiting , digestive problems , general malaise and flu-like symptoms.

Some patients get infections more often . Other side effects can include liver dysfunction, an inflamed liver, an increase in the enzyme amylase , joint problems , muscle pain and hair loss .

In the case of AIDS, a lack of white and red blood cells and platelets is more common . Patients who contract hepatitis B are less likely to develop it.

In AIDS patients, the symptoms may even worsen at the beginning of lamivudine therapy. The reason for this is a reaction of the stronger immune system to germs such as viruses, bacteria , fungi or parasites that are still in the body. Doctors then speak of an immune reactivation syndrome. In most cases, however, symptoms improve after about four weeks.

If there is hypersensitivity to lamivudine, no therapy with the active ingredient may be carried out. Dose adjustment may be necessary if kidney function is impaired. If symptoms such as pain in the hands and feet, tingling , numbness , enlargement of the liver or inflammation of the organ occur, the doctor treating you must carefully weigh the risks and benefits of the therapy.

The same applies to the use of lamivudine during pregnancy and breastfeeding . Animal experiments revealed harmful effects on the unborn child. However, it is still unclear whether these risks also exist in humans. In general, it is recommended not to administer lamivudine in early pregnancy. In the case of an HIV infection, the patient must stop breastfeeding her child. Otherwise there is a risk that the HI virus will be passed on to the child with the mother’s milk .

The administration of lamivudine to children under the age of three months is generally ruled out, as there is not enough knowledge about the effect of the drug on them. In older children, the dosage of the drug depends on their body weight and the course of the disease.

Because of the neurotoxic effects of lamivudine, no other drugs that have a similar effect should be administered. These include cisplatin , vincristine , isoniazid and ethambutol .

Lisa Newlon
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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.