AIDS Home > Precautions and Warnings With Lamivudine

There are many precautions and warnings with lamivudine to be aware of before starting treatment. It is important to know that lamivudine can potentially cause pancreatitis, increase your risk for lactic acidosis and hepatic steatosis, and change the distribution of fat on your body. Before taking lamivudine, make sure to let your healthcare provider know if you have liver disease, kidney disease, or any allergies.

Lamivudine: What Should I Tell My Healthcare Provider?

You should talk with your healthcare provider prior to taking lamivudine (Epivir®) if you have:
  • Had inflammation of the pancreas (known as pancreatitis) in the past
  • Liver disease, such as liver failure, cirrhosis, or hepatitis
  • Kidney disease, including kidney failure (renal failure)
  • Any allergies, including allergies to food, dyes, or preservatives.
Also, let your healthcare provider know if you are:
  • Pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant
  • Breastfeeding.
You should also be sure to tell your healthcare provider about all other medicines you are taking, including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.

Specific Warnings and Precautions for Lamivudine

Warnings and precautions to be aware of prior to taking lamivudine include the following:
  • Lamivudine can cause life-threatening inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis). This can be very dangerous. Let your healthcare provider know immediately if you have any signs of pancreatitis, such as:


    • A tender or swollen abdomen
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Fever
    • A rapid heart rate (tachycardia)
    • Rapid breathing.


  • Lamivudine can rarely cause a condition called lactic acidosis and hepatic steatosis. It is caused by damage to the liver and can be very dangerous. You are at higher risk for this side effect if you already have liver disease.
  • The kidneys help remove lamivudine from the body. If you have kidney disease, your healthcare provider may need to monitor you more closely and may recommend a lower lamivudine dosage.
  • Lamivudine can change the distribution of fat on your body. You may gain fat in areas that are not typical for you, such as in the abdomen or at the back of the neck (a "buffalo hump"), and may lose weight in other areas.
  • Sometimes, stopping lamivudine can cause a worsening of a hepatitis B infection. If you stop taking lamivudine, you should be monitored very closely to make sure you do not develop any problems.
  • Lamivudine is not a cure for HIV or AIDS. If you have HIV or AIDS, you should always use safer sex practices, regardless of whether you are taking medications.
  • As will all HIV medications, it is important that you take lamivudine exactly as prescribed. Missing doses may increase the chance of the virus becoming resistant to HIV medications.
  • Lamivudine can interact with a few different medications (see Drug Interactions With Lamivudine for more information).
  • Lamivudine is considered a pregnancy Category C medication. This means that it may not be safe for use during pregnancy, although the full risks are not known (see Epivir and Pregnancy).
  • Lamivudine passes through breast milk. Therefore, if you are breastfeeding or plan to start, discuss this with your healthcare provider prior to taking the drug (see Epivir and Breastfeeding). It is important to understand that the HIV virus can be transmitted through breast milk and that breastfeeding is usually not recommended in women with HIV or AIDS.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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