November 26, 2015
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"For children who have had HIV-1 infection since birth, the combination drug therapies now used to treat HIV appear to protect against the heart damage seen before combination therapies were available, according to researchers in a National Instit"...




Included as part of the PRECAUTIONS section.


Hypersensitivity Reactions

Serious and sometimes fatal hypersensitivity reactions have occurred with ZIAGEN (abacavir). These hypersensitivity reactions have included multi-organ failure and anaphylaxis and typically occurred within the first 6 weeks of treatment with ZIAGEN (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 ZIAGEN:

  • All patients should be screened for the HLA-B*5701 allele prior to initiating therapy with ZIAGEN or reinitiation of therapy with ZIAGEN, unless patients have a previously documented HLA-B*5701 allele assessment.
  • ZIAGEN is contraindicated in patients with a prior hypersensitivity reaction to abacavir and in HLA-B*5701-positive patients.
  • Before starting ZIAGEN, review medical history for prior exposure to any abacavircontaining product. NEVER restart ZIAGEN 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 ZIAGEN 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 ZIAGEN 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 ZIAGEN. 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 ZIAGEN 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. A majority of these cases have been in women. Obesity and prolonged nucleoside exposure may be risk factors. Caution should be exercised when administering ZIAGEN to any patient with known risk factors for liver disease; however, cases have also been reported in patients with no known risk factors. Treatment with ZIAGEN 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).

Immune Reconstitution Syndrome

Immune reconstitution syndrome has been reported in patients treated with combination antiretroviral therapy, including ZIAGEN. 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

ZIAGEN is one of multiple abacavir-containing products. Concomitant administration of ZIAGEN with other products containing abacavir is not recommended.

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 ZIAGEN, and instruct the patient to read the Medication Guide and Warning Card every time to obtain any new information that may be present about ZIAGEN. 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 ZIAGEN.
  • that a hypersensitivity reaction can worsen and lead to hospitalization or death if ZIAGEN is not immediately discontinued.
  • to not restart ZIAGEN 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 ZIAGEN is stopped right away.
  • that if they have interrupted ZIAGEN 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 ZIAGEN 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

Inform patients that they should not take ZIAGEN with EPZICOM®, TRIUMEQ®, or TRIZIVIR®.

Lactic Acidosis/Hepatomegaly

Inform patients that some HIV medicines, including ZIAGEN, can cause a rare, but serious condition called lactic acidosis with liver enlargement (hepatomegaly) [see BOXED WARNING, 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

Inform patients that ZIAGEN 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 ZIAGEN.

Advise patients to take all HIV medications exactly as prescribed. 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.

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 ZIAGEN 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.

Nonclinical Toxicology

Carcinogenesis, Mutagenesis, Impairment Of Fertility


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.


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.

Impairment of Fertility

Abacavir did not affect male or female fertility in rats at a dose associated with exposures approximately 8 times higher than the exposure in humans at the dose of 600 mg.

Use In Specific Populations


Pregnancy Exposure Registry

There is a pregnancy exposure registry that monitors pregnancy outcomes in women exposed to ZIAGEN 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 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. The relevance of animal findings to human pregnancy registry data is not known.


Human Data: 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%).

Animal Data: 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.


Risk Summary

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 safety and effectiveness of ZIAGEN have been established in pediatric patients aged 3 months and older. Use of ZIAGEN is supported by pharmacokinetic trials and evidence from adequate and well-controlled trials of ZIAGEN in adults and pediatric subjects [see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION, ADVERSE REACTIONS, CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY, Clinical Studies].

Geriatric Use

Clinical trials of ZIAGEN 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 ZIAGEN in elderly patients reflecting the greater frequency of decreased hepatic, renal, or cardiac function, and of concomitant disease or other drug therapy.

Patients With Impaired Hepatic Function

A dose reduction is required for patients with mild hepatic impairment (Child-Pugh Class A) [see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION]. The safety, efficacy, and pharmacokinetic properties of abacavir have not been established in patients with moderate or severe hepatic impairment; therefore, ZIAGEN is contraindicated in these patients [see CONTRAINDICATIONS, CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY].

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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