ay-BAK-a-veer or uh-BAK-a-veer

  • Abacavir (tradename Ziagen) is an NRTI.
  • Standard adult dose: 2 x 300 mg tablets, once-daily.
  • Can be taken with or without food.
  • Side effects: hypersensitvity reaction. A genetic test, called HLA B*5701, is now used in the UK that reduces this risk. A negative result does not guarantee that you will not get this reaction, but makes it much less likely.
  • Other notes: not recommended in people with a high risk of heart disease (greater than 10% risk over 10 years) because some studies have shown that it increased this risk. It is also not recommended when viral load is above 100,000 copies/mL.
  • Abacavir is most commonly used in a combined pill with other ARVs.
  • Abacavir is included with 3TC in the fixed dose combination Kivexa (called Epzicom in the US).
  • Abacavir is included with dolutevgravir and 3TC in the fixed dose combination Triumeq.
  • Athough abacavir is included with 3TC and AZT in the fixed dose combination Trizivir,  this combination, is no longer recommended and very rarely used.

Abacavir hypersensitivty reaction (HSR)

  • Symptoms of the reaction include fever, rash, headache, sore throat, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, tiredness, nausea, vomiting, flu-like aches etc that get progressively worse each day.
  • Anyone who gets these symptoms must seek urgent medical advice with a view to stopping the abacavir.
  • After abacavir is stopped with a suspected HSR, it must not be used by that person again. This is because a much worse reaction can return that is potentially fatal.

Further information

Information on hypersensitivity reactions and heart disease from the i-Base side effects guide.

The European patient information and detailed Product Information for abacavir are available in PDF format from this link at the European Medicines Agency (EMA) website.

The Patient Information is a simplified summary: what the drug is, why it is used, results from studies and cautions including side effects.

The Product Information is a detailed technical summary that you can access as a PDF file by clicking the ‘Product Information’ tab. It describes more precisely how the drug works and how it is processed by your body. This includes, for example, reported food interaction studies in terms of calories or fat content. It includes more details of the study results and a full list of side effects and drug interactions.