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Abacavir: Mechanism of Action, Indications, Administration, Side Effects

Updated: Jun 4

  • Abacavir is an antiretroviral medication used in the treatment of HIV infection.

  • It belongs to the class of drugs known as nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs).

  • Abacavir is often prescribed as part of combination therapy to control HIV replication and reduce the progression of the disease.

Mechanism of Action:

  • Abacavir works by inhibiting the activity of the reverse transcriptase enzyme, which is essential for the replication of the HIV virus.

  • Reverse transcriptase converts the viral RNA into DNA, allowing it to integrate into the host cell's genome and produce new viral particles.

  • Abacavir is a nucleoside analogue, meaning it resembles the building blocks of DNA. Once inside the cell, it is converted into its active form, abacavir triphosphate.

  • Abacavir triphosphate competitively binds to the reverse transcriptase enzyme, preventing the incorporation of natural nucleotides into the growing viral DNA chain.

  • This results in termination of the viral DNA synthesis and inhibits the replication of the HIV virus.


  • Abacavir is primarily used in the treatment of HIV-1 infection in adults and pediatric patients.

  • It is typically prescribed as part of a multidrug regimen called antiretroviral therapy (ART) or highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART).

  • Abacavir is used in combination with other antiretroviral drugs to achieve better virologic suppression, delay the progression of HIV-related symptoms, and improve the patient's immune function.


  • Abacavir is available in different formulations, including oral tablets, oral solution, and fixed-dose combination tablets with other antiretroviral drugs.

  • The dosage and frequency of administration depend on various factors, such as the patient's age, weight, renal function, and concomitant medications.

  • It is important to follow the prescribed dosing instructions and maintain regular follow-up visits with the healthcare provider to monitor the response to treatment.

Adverse Effects:

  • While abacavir is generally well-tolerated, it can cause certain adverse effects.

  • The most significant adverse reaction associated with abacavir is a hypersensitivity reaction, which can be life-threatening if not recognized and managed promptly.

  • Hypersensitivity reactions to abacavir are more common in individuals who carry a specific genetic marker called HLA-B*5701.

  • It is recommended to screen patients for this marker before starting abacavir therapy to minimize the risk of hypersensitivity reactions.

Other common side effects of abacavir may include:

  1. Gastrointestinal Effects: Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain can occur, but these side effects are usually mild and transient.

  2. Fatigue: Some individuals may experience fatigue, weakness, or general malaise.

  3. Headache: Headaches are a commonly reported side effect but are usually mild and temporary.

  4. Liver Abnormalities: Abacavir can cause liver enzyme elevations in some individuals, but severe hepatotoxicity is rare.

It is important to note that individuals taking abacavir should be vigilant about the signs and symptoms of a hypersensitivity reaction, which may include fever, rash, gastrointestinal symptoms, respiratory symptoms, and constitutional symptoms. If a hypersensitivity reaction is suspected, abacavir should be discontinued immediately, and medical attention should be sought.


  • Abacavir is an important antiretroviral medication used in the management of HIV infection.

  • By inhibiting the reverse transcriptase enzyme, it helps to suppress HIV replication and control the progression of the disease.

  • Regular monitoring, adherence to the prescribed treatment regimen, and awareness of potential adverse effects are crucial


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