AIDS Home > More Info on Combivir Indications

How Does Combivir Work?

As mentioned, Combivir contains two different HIV medications: lamivudine and zidovudine. Both of these belong to a group of HIV medications known as nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs). These medicines work by blocking a process that the HIV virus needs in order to multiply.
Like other viruses, HIV must use a person's own cells to reproduce. However, HIV is a little different from other viruses because it must first convert its genetic material from RNA to DNA. It is the DNA genes that allow HIV to multiply. HIV converts its genetic material using a special protein called the reverse transcriptase enzyme. To create DNA, this enzyme uses several different molecular building blocks.
Combivir works by tricking reverse transcriptase into thinking it is one of these molecular building blocks. However, the drug is just different enough that when used to create DNA, Combivir actually stops the DNA from being made. Without DNA, HIV cannot multiply.
Combivir is not a cure for HIV or AIDS, however. It can help stop HIV from infecting healthy cells in the body, but it does not help cells that have already been infected with the virus.

Combivir Uses in Children

Combivir should not be used in children who weigh less than 66 pounds, since the drug comes in only one strength, which is too high for small children.

Off-Label Combivir Uses

On occasion, your healthcare provider may recommend Combivir for treating something other than HIV infection and AIDS. This is called an "off-label" use. At this time, the drug is also used to prevent HIV infection in people exposed to the HIV virus, such as a healthcare worker who comes into contact with a contaminated needle stick. This is called postexposure prophylaxis (PEP).
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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