Drug information

Other Names:
Copegus, RBV, Rebetol, Ribasphere
Drug Class:
Opportunistic Infections and Coinfections
What is ribavirin?What is ribavirin?

What is ribavirin?


Ribavirin is an antiviral prescription medicine approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of chronic hepatitis C virus infection (HCV). Ribavirin is always used in combination with other drugs.

HCV infection is an opportunistic infection (OI) of HIV. An OI is an infection that occurs more frequently or is more severe in people with weakened immune systems—such as people with HIV—than in people with healthy immune systems. To learn more about OIs, read the HIVinfo What is an Opportunistic Infection? fact sheet.

To learn how HIV and HCV are connected, read the HIVinfo HIV and Hepatitis C fact sheet. The fact sheet includes information about how HCV is spread, symptoms of HCV, and treatment options.

How is ribavirin used in people with HIV?How is ribavirin used in people with HIV?

How is ribavirin used in people with HIV?


The Guidelines for the Prevention and Treatment of Opportunistic Infections in Adults and Adolescents with HIV reference the AASLD-IDSA HCV Guidance: Recommendations for Testing, Managing, and Treating Hepatitis C, which includes recommendations on the use of ribavirin to treat HCV infection in people with HIV.

Using a medicine as indicated on the medicine label is called on-label use; using the medicine in a different way is called off-label use. Off-label use, for example, can include using a drug for a different disease or medical condition. Good medical practice and the best interests of a patient sometimes require that a medicine be used off-label.

The guidelines include recommendations on the following uses of ribavirin:
  • On-label use: treatment of chronic HCV
  • Off-label use: treatment of acute HCV

The above list may not include all of the HIV-related uses of ribavirin recommended in the guidelines. Some recommended uses, such as uses in certain rare circumstances, may have been omitted.

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

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

Before taking ribavirin, tell your health care provider:

  • If you are allergic to ribavirin or any other medicines.
  • About any medical conditions you have or have had.
  • If you take any of the following medicines: didanosine, stavudine, or zidovudine.
  • About anything that could affect your ability to take medicines, such as difficulty swallowing or remembering to take pills or to take a scheduled dose of the medicine.
  • If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. Ribavirin may cause birth defects or death of an unborn child. Pregnant women and men whose partners are pregnant should not use ribavirin. (Women should not become pregnant during treatment with ribavirin. Women should also not become pregnant for 6 months after they stop taking ribavirin or for 6 months after their male partners stop taking ribavirin.)
  • If you are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. Do not breastfeed if you have HIV.
  • About other prescription and nonprescription medicines, vitamins, nutritional supplements, and herbal products you are taking or plan to take. Ribavirin may affect the way other medicines or products work, and other medicines or products may affect how ribavirin works. Ask your health care provider if there are interactions between ribavirin and the other medicines you take.

Ask your health care provider about possible side effects from ribavirin. Your health care provider will tell you what to do if you have side effects.

How should I take ribavirin?How should I take ribavirin?

How should I take ribavirin?


Take ribavirin according to your health care provider’s instructions. Your health care provider will tell you how much ribavirin to take and when to take it. Before you start ribavirin and each time you get a refill, read any printed information that comes with your medicine.

How should ribavirin be stored?How should ribavirin be stored?

How should ribavirin be stored?


  • Store ribavirin tablets and capsules at room temperature, between 59°F and 86°F (15°C to 30°C).
  • Store ribavirin oral solution at room temperature, between 59°F and 86°F (15°C to 30°C), or in the refrigerator, between 36°F and 46°F (2°C to 8°C).
  • Keep ribavirin in the container that it came in and keep the container tightly closed.
  • Do not use ribavirin if the original seal over the medicine container opening is broken or missing.
  • Throw away ribavirin that is no longer needed or expired (out of date). Follow FDA guidelines on how to safely dispose of unused medicine.
  • Keep ribavirin and all medicines out of reach of children.
Where can I find more information about ribavirin?Where can I find more information about ribavirin?

Where can I find more information about ribavirin?


The above Patient Version drug summary is based on the following FDA label(s): Capsule, liquid; Tablet (film coated).


Last Reviewed: January 11, 2019