November 25, 2015
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Included as part of the PRECAUTIONS section.


Hypersensitivity Reactions

Serious and sometimes fatal hypersensitivity reactions have occurred with abacavir, a component of EPZICOM. These hypersensitivity reactions have included multi-organ failure and anaphylaxis and typically occurred within the first 6 weeks of treatment with abacavir (median time to onset was 9 days); although abacavir hypersensitivity reactions have occurred any time during treatment [see ADVERSE REACTIONS]. Patients who carry the HLA-B*5701 allele are at a higher risk of abacavir hypersensitivity reactions; although, patients who do not carry the HLA-B*5701 allele have developed hypersensitivity reactions. Hypersensitivity to abacavir was reported in approximately 206 (8%) of 2,670 patients in 9 clinical trials with abacavir-containing products where HLA-B*5701 screening was not performed. The incidence of suspected abacavir hypersensitivity reactions in clinical trials was 1% when subjects carrying the HLA-B*5701 allele were excluded. In any patient treated with abacavir, the clinical diagnosis of hypersensitivity reaction must remain the basis of clinical decision making.

Due to the potential for severe, serious, and possibly fatal hypersensitivity reactions with abacavir:

  • All patients should be screened for the HLA-B*5701 allele prior to initiating therapy with EPZICOM or reinitiation of therapy with EPZICOM, unless patients have a previously documented HLA-B*5701 allele assessment.
  • EPZICOM is contraindicated in patients with a prior hypersensitivity reaction to abacavir and in HLA-B*5701-positive patients.
  • Before starting EPZICOM, review medical history for prior exposure to any abacavircontaining product. NEVER restart EPZICOM or any other abacavir-containing product following a hypersensitivity reaction to abacavir, regardless of HLA-B*5701 status.
  • To reduce the risk of a life-threatening hypersensitivity reaction, regardless of HLA-B*5701 status, discontinue EPZICOM immediately if a hypersensitivity reaction is suspected, even when other diagnoses are possible (e.g., acute onset respiratory diseases such as pneumonia, bronchitis, pharyngitis, or influenza; gastroenteritis; or reactions to other medications).
  • If a hypersensitivity reaction cannot be ruled out, do not restart EPZICOM or any other abacavir-containing products because more severe symptoms, which may include life-threatening hypotension and death, can occur within hours.
  • If a hypersensitivity reaction is ruled out, patients may restart EPZICOM. Rarely, patients who have stopped abacavir for reasons other than symptoms of hypersensitivity have also experienced life-threatening reactions within hours of reinitiating abacavir therapy. Therefore, reintroduction of EPZICOM or any other abacavir-containing product is recommended only if medical care can be readily accessed.
  • A Medication Guide and Warning Card that provide information about recognition of hypersensitivity reactions should be dispensed with each new prescription and refill.

Lactic Acidosis And Severe Hepatomegaly With Steatosis

Lactic acidosis and severe hepatomegaly with steatosis, including fatal cases, have been reported with the use of nucleoside analogues and other antiretrovirals. See full prescribing information for ZIAGEN (abacavir) and EPIVIR (lamivudine). Treatment with EPZICOM should be suspended in any patient who develops clinical or laboratory findings suggestive of lactic acidosis or pronounced hepatotoxicity (which may include hepatomegaly and steatosis even in the absence of marked transaminase elevations).

Patients With Hepatitis B Virus Co-infection

Posttreatment Exacerbations of Hepatitis

Clinical and laboratory evidence of exacerbations of hepatitis have occurred after discontinuation of lamivudine. See full prescribing information for EPIVIR (lamivudine). Patients should be closely monitored with both clinical and laboratory follow-up for at least several months after stopping treatment.

Emergence of Lamivudine-resistant HBV

Safety and efficacy of lamivudine have not been established for treatment of chronic hepatitis B in subjects dually infected with HIV-1 and HBV. Emergence of hepatitis B virus variants associated with resistance to lamivudine has been reported in HIV-1-infected subjects who have received lamivudine-containing antiretroviral regimens in the presence of concurrent infection with hepatitis B virus. See full prescribing information for EPIVIR (lamivudine).

Use With Interferon-And Ribavirin-Based Regimens

Patients receiving interferon alfa with or without ribavirin and EPZICOM should be closely monitored for treatment-associated toxicities, especially hepatic decompensation. See full prescribing information for EPIVIR (lamivudine). Discontinuation of EPZICOM should be considered as medically appropriate. Dose reduction or discontinuation of interferon alfa, ribavirin, or both should also be considered if worsening clinical toxicities are observed, including hepatic decompensation (e.g., Child-Pugh greater than 6) (see full prescribing information for interferon and ribavirin).

Immune Reconstitution Syndrome

Immune reconstitution syndrome has been reported in patients treated with combination antiretroviral therapy, including EPZICOM. During the initial phase of combination antiretroviral treatment, patients whose immune systems respond may develop an inflammatory response to indolent or residual opportunistic infections (such as Mycobacterium avium infection, cytomegalovirus, Pneumocystis jirovecii pneumonia [PCP], or tuberculosis), which may necessitate further evaluation and treatment.

Autoimmune disorders (such as Graves' disease, polymyositis, and Guillain-Barré syndrome) have also been reported to occur in the setting of immune reconstitution; however, the time to onset is more variable, and can occur many months after initiation of treatment.

Fat Redistribution

Redistribution/accumulation of body fat including central obesity, dorsocervical fat enlargement (buffalo hump), peripheral wasting, facial wasting, breast enlargement, and “cushingoid appearance” have been observed in patients receiving antiretroviral therapy. The mechanism and long-term consequences of these events are currently unknown. A causal relationship has not been established.

Myocardial Infarction

In a published prospective, observational, epidemiological trial designed to investigate the rate of myocardial infarction (MI) in patients on combination antiretroviral therapy, the use of abacavir within the previous 6 months was correlated with an increased risk of MI. In a sponsor-conducted pooled analysis of clinical trials, no excess risk of MI was observed in abacavir-treated subjects as compared with control subjects. In totality, the available data from the observational cohort and from clinical trials are inconclusive.

As a precaution, the underlying risk of coronary heart disease should be considered when prescribing antiretroviral therapies, including abacavir, and action taken to minimize all modifiable risk factors (e.g., hypertension, hyperlipidemia, diabetes mellitus, smoking).

Related Products That Are Not Recommended

EPZICOM contains fixed doses of 2 nucleoside analogue reverse transcriptase inhibitors (abacavir and lamivudine); concomitant administration of EPZICOM with other products containing abacavir or lamivudine is not recommended. In addition, do not administer EPZICOM in combination with products containing emtricitabine.

Patient Counseling Information

Advise the patient to read the FDA-approved patient labeling (Medication Guide).

Hypersensitivity Reactions

Inform patients:

  • that a Medication Guide and Warning Card summarizing the symptoms of the abacavir hypersensitivity reaction and other product information will be dispensed by the pharmacist with each new prescription and refill of EPZICOM, and instruct the patient to read the Medication Guide and Warning Card every time to obtain any new information that may be present about EPZICOM. The complete text of the Medication Guide is reprinted at the end of this document.
  • to carry the Warning Card with them.
  • how to identify a hypersensitivity reaction [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS, Medication Guide].
  • that if they develop symptoms consistent with a hypersensitivity reaction they should call their healthcare provider right away to determine if they should stop taking EPZICOM.
  • that a hypersensitivity reaction can worsen and lead to hospitalization or death if EPZICOM is not immediately discontinued.
  • to not restart EPZICOM or any other abacavir-containing product following a hypersensitivity reaction because more severe symptoms can occur within hours and may include life-threatening hypotension and death.
  • that a hypersensitivity reaction is usually reversible if it is detected promptly and EPZICOM is stopped right away.
  • that if they have interrupted EPZICOM for reasons other than symptoms of hypersensitivity (for example, those who have an interruption in drug supply), a serious or fatal hypersensitivity reaction may occur with reintroduction of abacavir.
  • to not restart EPZICOM or any other abacavir-containing product without medical consultation and only if medical care can be readily accessed by the patient or others.
Related Products that are Not Recommended


Lactic Acidosis/Hepatomegaly

Inform patients that some HIV medicines, including EPZICOM, can cause a rare, but serious condition called lactic acidosis with liver enlargement (hepatomegaly) [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].

Patients with Hepatitis B or C Co-infection

Advise patients co-infected with HIV-1 and HBV that worsening of liver disease has occurred in some cases when treatment with lamivudine was discontinued. Advise patients to discuss any changes in regimen with their physician [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].

Inform patients with HIV-1/HCV co-infection that hepatic decompensation (some fatal) has occurred in HIV-1/HCV co-infected patients receiving combination antiretroviral therapy for HIV-1 and interferon alfa with or without ribavirin [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].

Immune Reconstitution Syndrome

In some patients with advanced HIV infection, signs and symptoms of inflammation from previous infections may occur soon after anti-HIV treatment is started. It is believed that these symptoms are due to an improvement in the body's immune response, enabling the body to fight infections that may have been present with no obvious symptoms. Advise patients to inform their healthcare provider immediately of any symptoms of infection [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].

Redistribution/Accumulation of Body Fat

Inform patients that redistribution or accumulation of body fat may occur in patients receiving antiretroviral therapy and that the cause and long-term health effects of these conditions are not known at this time [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].

Information about HIV-1 Infection

EPZICOM is not a cure for HIV-1 infection and patients may continue to experience illnesses associated with HIV-1 infection, including opportunistic infections. Patients must remain on continuous HIV therapy to control HIV-1 infection and decrease HIV-related illness. Inform patients that sustained decreases in plasma HIV-1 RNA have been associated with a reduced risk of progression to AIDS and death.

Advise patients to remain under the care of a physician when using EPZICOM.

Advise patients to take all HIV medications exactly as prescribed.

Advise patients to avoid doing things that can spread HIV-1 infection to others. Advise patients not to re-use or share needles or other injection equipment. Advise patients not to share personal items that can have blood or body fluids on them, like

toothbrushes and razor blades. Advise patients to always practice safer sex by using a latex or polyurethane condom to lower the chance of sexual contact with semen, vaginal secretions, or blood.

Female patients should be advised not to breastfeed. Mothers with HIV-1 should not breastfeed because HIV-1 can be passed to the baby in the breast milk.

Instruct patients to read the Medication Guide before starting EPZICOM and to reread it each time the prescription is renewed. Instruct patients to inform their physician or pharmacist if they develop any unusual symptom, or if any known symptom persists or worsens.

Instruct patients that if they miss a dose, they should take it as soon as they remember. If they do not remember until it is time for the next dose, they should be instructed to skip the missed dose and go back to the regular schedule. Patients should not double their next dose or take more than the prescribed dose.

Nonclinical Toxicology

Carcinogenesis, Mutagenesis, Impairment Of Fertility


Abacavir: Abacavir was administered orally at 3 dosage levels to separate groups of mice and rats in 2-year carcinogenicity studies. Results showed an increase in the incidence of malignant and non-malignant tumors. Malignant tumors occurred in the preputial gland of males and the clitoral gland of females of both species, and in the liver of female rats. In addition, non-malignant tumors also occurred in the liver and thyroid gland of female rats. These observations were made at systemic exposures in the range of 6 to 32 times the human exposure at the recommended dose of 600 mg.

Lamivudine: Long-term carcinogenicity studies with lamivudine in mice and rats showed no evidence of carcinogenic potential at exposures up to 10 times (mice) and 58 times (rats) the human exposures at the recommended dose of 300 mg.


Abacavir: Abacavir induced chromosomal aberrations both in the presence and absence of metabolic activation in an in vitro cytogenetic study in human lymphocytes. Abacavir was mutagenic in the absence of metabolic activation, although it was not mutagenic in the presence of metabolic activation in an L5178Y mouse lymphoma assay. Abacavir was clastogenic in males and not clastogenic in females in an in vivo mouse bone marrow micronucleus assay. Abacavir was not mutagenic in bacterial mutagenicity assays in the presence and absence of metabolic activation.

Lamivudine: Lamivudine was mutagenic in an L5178Y mouse lymphoma assay and clastogenic in a cytogenetic assay using cultured human lymphocytes. Lamivudine was not mutagenic in a microbial mutagenicity assay, in an in vitro cell transformation assay, in a rat micronucleus test, in a rat bone marrow cytogenetic assay, and in an assay for unscheduled DNA synthesis in rat liver.

Impairment of Fertility

Abacavir or lamivudine did not affect male or female fertility in rats at a dose associated with exposures approximately 8 or 130 times, respectively, higher than the exposures in humans at the doses of 600 mg and 300 mg (respectively).

Use In Specific Populations


Pregnancy Exposure Registry

There is a pregnancy exposure registry that monitors pregnancy outcomes in women exposed to EPZICOM during pregnancy. Physicians are encouraged to register patients by calling the Antiretroviral Pregnancy Registry at 1-800-258-4263.

Risk Summary

Available data from the Antiretroviral Pregnancy Registry show no difference in the risk of overall major birth defects for abacavir or lamivudine compared with the background rate for major birth defects of 2.7% in the US reference population of the Metropolitan Atlanta Congenital Defects Program (MACDP). Abacavir produced fetal malformations and other embryonic and fetal toxicities in rats at 35 times the human exposure at the recommended clinical dose. Lamivudine produced embryonic toxicity in rabbits at a dose that produced similar human exposures to the recommended clinical dose. The relevance of animal findings to human pregnancy registry data is not known.


Human Data: Abacavir: Based on prospective reports from the Antiretroviral Pregnancy Registry of over 2,000 exposures to abacavir during pregnancy resulting in live births (including over 900 exposed in the first trimester), there was no difference between abacavir and overall birth defects compared with the background birth defect rate of 2.7% in the US reference population of the MACDP. The prevalence of defects in the first trimester was 3.0% (95% CI: 2.0% to 4.4%).

Lamivudine: Based on prospective reports from the Antiretroviral Pregnancy Registry of over 11,000 exposures to lamivudine during pregnancy resulting in live births (including over 4,300 exposed in the first trimester), there was no difference between lamivudine and overall birth defects compared with the background birth defect rate of 2.7% in the U.S. reference population of the MACDP. The prevalence of defects in the first trimester was 3.1% (95% CI: 2.6% to 3.7%).

Lamivudine pharmacokinetics were studied in pregnant women during 2 clinical trials conducted in South Africa. The trials assessed pharmacokinetics in 16 women at 36 weeks gestation using 150 mg lamivudine twice daily with zidovudine, 10 women at 38 weeks gestation using 150 mg lamivudine twice daily with zidovudine, and 10 women at 38 weeks gestation using lamivudine 300 mg twice daily without other antiretrovirals. These trials were not designed or powered to provide efficacy information. Lamivudine pharmacokinetics in pregnant women were similar to those seen in non-pregnant adults and in postpartum women. Lamivudine concentrations were generally similar in maternal, neonatal, and umbilical cord serum samples. In a subset of subjects, amniotic fluid specimens were collected following natural rupture of membranes and confirmed that lamivudine crosses the placenta in humans. Amniotic fluid concentrations of lamivudine were typically 2 times greater than maternal serum levels and ranged from 1.2 to 2.5 mcg per mL (150 mg twice daily) and 2.1 to 5.2 mcg per mL (300 mg twice daily).

Animal Data: Abacavir: Studies in pregnant rats showed that abacavir is transferred to the fetus through the placenta. Fetal malformations (increased incidences of fetal anasarca and skeletal malformations) and developmental toxicity (depressed fetal body weight and reduced crown-rump length) were observed in rats at a dose which produced 35 times the human exposure, based on AUC. Embryonic and fetal toxicities (increased resorptions, decreased fetal body weights) and toxicities to the offspring (increased incidence of stillbirth and lower body weights) occurred at half of the above-mentioned dose in separate fertility studies conducted in rats. In the rabbit, no developmental toxicity and no increases in fetal malformations occurred at doses that produced 8.5 times the human exposure at the recommended dose based on AUC.

Lamivudine: Studies in pregnant rats showed that lamivudine is transferred to the fetus through the placenta. Reproduction studies with orally administered lamivudine have been performed in rats and rabbits at doses producing plasma levels up to approximately 35 times that for the recommended adult HIV dose. No evidence of teratogenicity due to lamivudine was observed. Evidence of early embryolethality was seen in the rabbit at exposure levels similar to those observed in humans, but there was no indication of this effect in the rat at exposure levels up to 35 times those in humans.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that HIV-1-infected mothers in the United States not breastfeed their infants to avoid risking postnatal transmission of HIV-1 infection.

Because of the potential for HIV-1 transmission mothers should be instructed not to breastfeed.

Pediatric Use

The dosing recommendations in this population are based on the safety and efficacy established in a controlled trial conducted using either the combination of EPIVIR and ZIAGEN or EPZICOM [see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION, ADVERSE REACTIONS, Clinical Studies].

In pediatric patients weighing less than 25 kg, use of abacavir and lamivudine as single products is recommended to achieve appropriate dosing.

Geriatric Use

Clinical trials of abacavir and lamivudine did not include sufficient numbers of subjects aged 65 and over to determine whether they respond differently from younger subjects. In general, caution should be exercised in the administration of EPZICOM in elderly patients reflecting the greater frequency of decreased hepatic, renal, or cardiac function, and of concomitant disease or other drug therapy [see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION, Use In Specific Populations].

Patients With Impaired Renal Function

EPZICOM is not recommended for patients with creatinine clearance less than 50 mL per min because EPZICOM is a fixed-dose combination and the dosage of the individual components cannot be adjusted. If a dose reduction of lamivudine, a component of EPZICOM, is required for patients with creatinine clearance less than 50 mL per min, then the individual components should be used [see CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY].

Patients With Impaired Hepatic Function

EPZICOM is a fixed-dose combination and the dosage of the individual components cannot be adjusted. If a dose reduction of abacavir, a component of EPZICOM, is required for patients with mild hepatic impairment (Child-Pugh Class A), then the individual components should be used [see CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY].

The safety, efficacy, and pharmacokinetic properties of abacavir have not been established in patients with moderate (Child-Pugh Class B) or severe (Child-Pugh Class C) hepatic impairment; therefore, EPZICOM is contraindicated in these patients [see CONTRAINDICATIONS].

This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.

Last reviewed on RxList: 10/23/2015


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