Drug information

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Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitor (NRTIs)
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What are the most important things to know about emtricitabine? What are the most important things to know about emtricitabine?

What are the most important things to know about emtricitabine?


Emtricitabine can cause serious, life-threatening side effects. These include a buildup of lactic acid in the blood (lactic acidosis) and liver problems.

Contact your health care provider right away if you have any of the following symptoms that could be signs of lactic acidosis:

  • Weakness or tiredness
  • Unusual muscle pain
  • Shortness of breath or fast breathing
  • Stomach pain with nausea and vomiting
  • Cold or blue hands and feet
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Fast or abnormal heartbeat

Contact your health care provider right away if you have any of the following symptoms that could be signs of severe liver problems:

  • Tiredness
  • Weakness
  • Yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes (jaundice)
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Light-colored bowel movements
  • Loss of appetite for several days or longer
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Swelling and pain in the stomach (abdominal) area

If you have both HIV and HBV infection and take emtricitabine, your HBV infection may get much worse (flare up) if you stop taking emtricitabine. Do not stop taking emtricitabine without first talking with your health care provider. .

While taking emtricitabine, it is important to keep all of your appointments with your health care provider.


What is emtricitabine?


Emtricitabine is a prescription medicine approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of HIV infection in adults, children, and infants. Emtricitabine 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 transmission. If you are taking HIV medicines, don’t cut down on, skip, or stop taking them unless your health care provider tells you to.

Because emtricitabine is also effective against hepatitis B virus infection (HBV), it may be included as part of an antiretroviral therapy (ART) regimen to treat both HIV and HBV infection in people with HIV/HBV coinfection . In addition to emtricitabine, the ART regimen should include another drug that is active against both HIV and HBV. For information on the HBV-related use of emtricitabine, please refer to the HBV section of the Guidelines for the Prevention and Treatment of Opportunistic Infections in Adults and Adolescents with HIV.

What should I tell my health care provider before taking emtricitabine?What should I tell my health care provider before taking emtricitabine?

What should I tell my health care provider before taking emtricitabine?


Before taking emtricitabine, tell your health care provider:

  • If you are allergic to emtricitabine or any other medicines.
  • If you have liver problems, including HBV infection.
  • If you have kidney problems or receive kidney dialysis treatment.
  • If you have any other medical conditions.
  • If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. Talk to your health care provider about the risks and benefits of taking emtricitabine during pregnancy.
  • If you are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. Do not breastfeed if you have HIV or are taking emtricitabine.
  • If you are using hormone-based birth control (such as pills, implants, or vaginal rings). For more information about using birth control and HIV medicines at the same time, view the HIVinfo HIV and Birth Control infographic.
  • About other prescription and nonprescription medicines, vitamins, nutritional supplements, and herbal products you are taking or plan to take. Emtricitabine may affect the way other medicines or products work, and other medicines or products may affect how emtricitabine works. Taking emtricitabine together with certain medicines or products may cause serious side effects.

How should I take emtricitabine?


Emtricitabine (brand name: Emtriva) comes in the following forms and strengths:

  • 200-mg capsules
  • 10-mg/mL oral solution 

Take emtricitabine according to your health care provider’s instructions.

Take emtricitabine by mouth, with or without food.

Always take emtricitabine in combination with other HIV medicines.

If you take too much emtricitabine, 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 emtricitabine, see the FDA drug label.


What should I do if I forget a dose?


If you miss a dose of emtricitabine, 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 emtricitabine cause?


Emtricitabine 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 emtricitabine can be serious. Serious side effects of emtricitabine include a buildup of lactic acid in the blood (lactic acidosis) and liver problems. 

Other possible side effects of emtricitabine include:

  • Changes in your immune system (called immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome 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.
  • Skin discoloration.

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 emtricitabine. To learn more about possible side effects of emtricitabine, read the drug label or package insert 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 emtricitabine be stored?How should emtricitabine be stored?

How should emtricitabine be stored?


  • Store emtricitabine capsules at room temperature, 68°F to 77°F (20°C to 25°C).
  • Store emtricitabine oral solution in a refrigerator, between 36°F and 46°F (2°C to 8°C). You may also store at room temperature, 68°F to 77°F (20°C to 25°C), for up to 3 months. If you may also store emtricitabine oral solution at room temperature, throw away any unused solution after 3 months.
  • Do not freeze emtricitabine oral solution.
  • Keep emtricitabine in the container that it came in and keep the container tightly closed.
  • Do not use emtricitabine if the original seal over the container opening is broken or missing.
  • Throw away emtricitabine that is no longer needed or expired (out of date). Follow FDA guidelines on how to safely dispose of unused medicine.
  • Keep emtricitabine and all medicines out of reach of children.

Where can I find more information about emtricitabine?


More information about emtricitabine is available:

Manufacturer Information

Gilead Sciences, Inc.
Main number: 800-445-3235
Patient assistance: 800-226-2056

The above Patient Version drug summary is based on the following FDA label(s): Capsule, solution.


Last Reviewed: December 2, 2020