What are the most important things to know about efavirenz?
Efavirenz can cause serious, life-threatening side effects. These include serious mental health problems,problems, and severe rash.
Contact your health care provider right away if you have any of the following symptoms that could be signs of mental health problems:
- Feeling sad or hopeless
- Feeling anxious or restless
- Harming yourself or others or having thoughts about harming yourself (including suicidal thoughts) or others
- Not being able to tell the difference between what is true or real and what is false or unreal
- Not trusting other people
- Hearing or seeing things that are not real
- Not being able to move or speak normally
Some people taking efavirenz have had liver problems. People with a history of(HBV) or (HCV) or who have elevated results on liver function tests may have an increased risk of developing new or worsening liver problems while taking efavirenz. Liver problems have also occurred in people taking efavirenz who have no history of liver disease. Liver function tests may be done before and during treatment with efavirenz.
Contact your health care provider right away if you have any of the following symptoms that could be signs of liver problems:
- Yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes ( )
- Dark-colored urine
- Light-colored bowel movements
- Loss of appetite for several days or longer
- Pain in the lower stomach area (abdominal pain)
Skin rash is common when taking efavirenz but can sometimes be severe. Skin rash usually goes away without any change in treatment. Contact your health care provider right away if you develop a rash—with or without itching—and any of the following symptoms:
- Swelling of your face
- Blisters or skin lesions
- Peeling skin
- Sores in your mouth
- Redness or swelling of your eyes ( )
Because of the potential risk of birth defects, women should not become pregnant while taking efavirenz and for 12 weeks after stopping the medicine.
While taking efavirenz, it is important to keep all of your appointments with your health care provider.
What is efavirenz?
Efavirenz is a prescription medicine approved by the U.S.(FDA) for the treatment of HIV in adults and in children at least 3 months of age who weigh at least 7 lb 12 oz (3.5 kg). Efavirenz is always used in combination with other HIV medicines.
HIV medicines can’t cure HIV/AIDS, but taking HIV medicines every day helps people with HIV live longer, healthier lives. HIV medicines also reduce the risk of HIV. If you are taking HIV medicines, don’t cut down on, skip, or stop taking them unless your health care provider tells you to.
What should I tell my health care provider before taking efavirenz?
Before taking efavirenz, tell your health care provider:
- If you are allergic to efavirenz or any other medicines.
- If you have a heart condition.
- If you have ever had a mental health problem.
- If you have ever used street drugs or large amounts of alcohol.
- If you have liver problems, including HBV infection or HCV infection.
- If you have had a seizure or if you take a medicine to help prevent seizures.
- If you have any other medical conditions.
- If you are pregnant, pregnancy is suspected, or you plan to become pregnant. Because of the potential risk of birth defects, women should not become pregnant while taking efavirenz and for 12 weeks after stopping the drug. Talk to your health care provider about the risks of taking efavirenz during pregnancy.
- If you are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. Do not breastfeed if you have HIV or are taking efavirenz.
- If you are using HIV and Birth Control infographic. -based birth control (such as pills, injections, implants, or vaginal rings). These forms of birth control may not be effective during treatment with efavirenz. Women who are able to become pregnant should use two effective forms of birth control during treatment and for 12 weeks after stopping treatment with efavirenz. A barrier form of birth control, such as a or contraceptive sponge, should always be used along with another type of birth control. Your health care provider can help you decide how to adjust your birth control while you are taking efavirenz. For more information about using birth control and HIV medicines at the same time, view the HIVinfo
- About other prescription and nonprescription medicines, vitamins, nutritional supplements, and herbal products you are taking or plan to take, especially if you are taking Atripla or elbasvir / grazoprevir (brand name: Zepatier). Efavirenz may affect the way other medicines or products work, and other medicines or products may affect how efavirenz works. Taking efavirenz together with certain medicines or products may cause serious side effects.
How should I take efavirenz?
Efavirenz (brand name: Sustiva) comes in the following forms and strengths:
- 50-mg capsules
- 200-mg capsules
- 600-mg tablets
Take efavirenz according to your health care provider’s instructions.
Take efavirenz on an empty stomach, preferably at bedtime. Do not break efavirenz tablets. Swallow efavirenz tablets and capsules whole with liquid. Do not take efavirenz with food.
Tell your health care provider if you or your child have trouble swallowing tablets or capsules. Your health care provider may recommend that you open the efavirenz capsule and mix the contents with food or infant formula. (Ask your health care provider or see the efavirenz drug label for complete instructions on the capsule sprinkle method.) Adults and children who take efavirenz using the capsule sprinkle method should not eat for 2 hours after taking aof efavirenz.
Always take efavirenz in combination with other HIV medicines.
If you take too much efavirenz, contact your health care provider or local poison control center (1-800-222-1222) right away, or go to the nearest hospital emergency room.
For more information on how to take efavirenz, see the FDA drug label.
What should I do if I forget a dose?
If you miss a dose of efavirenz, take the missed dose as soon as you remember it. But if it is almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and just take your next dose at the regular time. Do not take two doses at the same time to make up for a missed dose.
What side effects can efavirenz cause?
Efavirenz may cause side effects. Many side effects from HIV medicines, such as nausea or occasional dizziness, are manageable. See the HIVinfo fact sheet on HIV Medicines and Side Effects for more information.
Some side effects of efavirenz can be serious. Serious side effects of efavirenz include serious mental health problems, liver problems, and severe rash. (See section above: What are the most important things to know about efavirenz?)
Other possible side effects of efavirenz include:
- Nervous system symptoms, including dizziness, trouble sleeping, unusual dreams, trouble concentrating, drowsiness, and lack of coordination or difficulty with balance. (These symptoms usually begin during the first or second day of treatment and usually go away after 2 to 4 weeks of treatment. However, they may become worse if you drink alcohol, take a medicine for mental health problems, or use certain street drugs.) Some nervous system symptoms (e.g., confusion, slow thoughts and physical movement, and delusions [false beliefs] or hallucinations [seeing or hearing things that others do not see or hear]) may occur months to years after beginning treatment with efavirenz. Promptly contact your health care provider if you experience any of these symptoms.
- Seizures, which are more likely to happen if you have had seizures in the past.
- Changes in your (called or IRIS). IRIS is a condition that sometimes occurs when the immune system begins to recover after treatment with an HIV medicine. As the immune system gets stronger, it may have an increased response to a previously hidden infection.
- Changes in body fat ( ).
- Increases in the levels of certain fats ( and ) in the blood ( ).
Tell your health care provider if you have any side effect that bothers you or that does not go away.
These are not all the possible side effects of efavirenz. To learn more about possible side effects of efavirenz, read the drug label or or talk to your health care provider or pharmacist.
You can report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088 (1-800-332-1088) or online.
How should efavirenz be stored?
- Store efavirenz at room temperature, 68°F to 77°F (20°C to 25°C).
- Keep efavirenz in the container that it came in and keep the container tightly closed.
- Do not use efavirenz if the original seal over the container opening is broken or missing.
- Throw away efavirenz that is no longer needed or expired (out of date). Follow FDA guidelines on how to safely dispose of unused medicine.
- Keep efavirenz and all medicines out of reach of children.
Where can I find more information about efavirenz?
More information about efavirenz is available:
Main number: 800-332-2056
Patient assistance: 888-281-8981
The above Patient Version drug summary is based on the following FDA label(s): Capsule (gelatin coated), tablet (film coated).
Last Reviewed: May 14, 2020