Entecavir is an antiviral drug used in the treatment of chronic hepatitis B, particularly for patients with liver damage. This medicine is sold under the brand name Baraclude by Bristol-Myers Squibb Pharmaceutical Company.
Entecavir is a reverse transcriptase inhibitor that works by preventing the hepatitis B virus from multiplying, and thereby decreasing the amount of the virus in the body. However, it is important to note that entecavir is not a cure for HBV and it may not prevent damage to the liver or reduce the chances of developing liver cancer. In addition, entecavir doesn’t prevent the spread of HBV to others through the normal routes of transmission, such as having sex or exposure to blood or bodily fluids.
How to take Entecavir
Entecavir is available as a tablet (either 0.5 mg or 1 mg), or as an orange-flavored solution that you drink. A standard dose is 0.5 mg once daily for one year. The dose is doubled for people who have persistent hepatitis viremia (the presence of virus in the blood) while taking lamivudine or have lamivudine resistance. You should take entecavir on an empty stomach, two hours before or after a meal.
One year of treatment with entecavir can cost around 9,600 USD. However, drug costs vary considerably based on many factors, such as whether you have health insurance, where you live and which pharmacy you use.
Side effects of entecavir
As with all drugs, there are some risks to taking entecavir. Some side effectsare more serious than others.
In rare cases, entecavir can cause a condition known as lactic acidosis, which is a build-up of lactic acid in the body. This condition can come on insidiously and worsen over time, therefore even mild symptoms warrant seeking urgent medical help. Symptoms of lactic acidosis include:
- Muscle pain and/or muscle weakness
- A numb or cold feeling in the limbs
- Difficulty breathing
- Feeling dizzy, light-headed, tired, or very weak
- Stomach pain, nausea or vomiting
- Slow or uneven heart rate
Severe liver disease
Entecavir can also cause severe liver symptoms in some patients. You should quickly call your doctor or seek urgent medical care if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Low fever
- Nausea, stomach pain, or loss of appetite
- Dark urine, clay-colored stools, or jaundice
Other side effects of entecavir
Milder and less dangerous side effects are also possible when taking entecavir. These side effects are headache, fatigue, dizziness, sleeplessness, rash, vomiting, temporary hair loss, and diarrhea. Also, it’s important to know that if you stop taking entecavir before the end of your treatment, your hepatitis might get worse.
Who should not take Entecavir
Anyone who is allergic to entecavir shouldn’t take this drug. Also, it’s important to know your HIV status because taking entecavir can significantly complicate treating HIV. Discuss with an infectious disease specialist before taking entecavir if you have untreated or unrecognized HIV infection.
Monitoring liver function
While taking entecavir, your physician will monitor your liver function. In fact, some patients develop liver symptoms weeks or even months after they stop taking entecavir, so your liver function needs to be monitored regularly for several months after stopping the drug.