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What is abacavir?

Abacavir (also called Ziagen®) is used to treat infection caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). This medicine is one of a group of medicines called nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs). Abacavir can slow down how soon symptoms appear. It might also slow the damage caused by HIV. But abacavir cannot cure HIV infection. This medicine is available as a liquid and as 300-mg tablets.

How to take abacavir

  • This medicine is usually taken one (1) time in the morning and one (1) time at night.
  • Abacavir can be taken with or without food. Taking the medicine right after you have eaten a meal may help prevent upset stomach.

Laboratory testing

A genetic test called HLA-B can be performed to determine if you might develop an allergic reaction to abacavir. If the test result is negative, your doctor may prescribe this medicine to you. If the test is positive, your doctor will consider using another medicine to treat your HIV. For information about HLA-B*5701 and abacavir hypersensitivity, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

Possible side effects of abacavir

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Low blood counts
  • Unusual tired feeling
  • Headache

These are the most common side effects, but there may be others. Please report all side effects to the doctor or nurse. In case of a severe side effect or reaction, call the doctor, nurse, or pharmacist at 901-595-3300. If you are outside the Memphis area, dial toll-free 1-866-2STJUDE (1-866-278-5833), and press 0 once the call is connected.

During the first few weeks of therapy, some patients develop a skin rash and have 2 or more of the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea and stomach pain
  • Severe tiredness, achiness, or other “flu-like” symptoms
  • Sore throat, shortness of breath, or cough

If you develop a rash during the first few weeks of therapy, and you have 2 or more of the symptoms listed above:

  • Stop taking abacavir right away
  • Call the doctor right away at 901-595-3300. If you are outside the Memphis area, dial toll-free 1-866-2STJUDE (1-866-278-5833), and press 0 once the call is connected.
  • Do not start taking abacavir again unless the doctor tells you to do so.

Special instructions for abacavir

  • Abacavir liquid and tablets should be stored at room temperature.
  • Some side effects, such as low blood counts, can only be found with blood tests. For this reason, it is very important that you come to the clinic at regularly planned times and have your blood tested.


This document is not intended to take the place of the care and attention of your personal physician or other professional medical services. Our aim is to promote active participation in your care and treatment by providing information and education. Questions about individual health concerns or specific treatment options should be discussed with your physician.

St. Jude complies with health care-related federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex.

ATTENTION: If you speak another language, assistance services, free of charge, are available to you. Call 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).

ATENCIÓN: si habla español, tiene a su disposición servicios gratuitos de asistencia lingüística. Llame al 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).

تنبيه: إذا كنت تتحدث باللغة العربية فيمكنك الاستعانة بخدمات المساعدة اللغوية المتوفرة لك مجانا. .يرجى الاتصال بالرقم. 5833-278-866-1  (الهاتف النصي: 1040-595-901-1).