Epivir belongs to group of medications known as nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs). NRTI medications work by blocking a process that the HIV and hepatitis B viruses need in order to multiply.
HIV (the human immunodeficiency virus) is the virus that is responsible for AIDS, and HBV (the hepatitis B virus) is responsible for hepatitis B infection. Like other viruses, HIV and HBV must use a person's own cells to reproduce. However, HIV and HBV are different from many other viruses because they must first convert their genetic material from RNA to DNA. It is the DNA genes that allow HIV and HBV to multiply.
HIV and HBV convert their genetic material into DNA by using a special protein called the reverse transcriptase enzyme. To create DNA, this enzyme uses several different molecular building blocks.
Epivir works by tricking reverse transcriptase into thinking it is one of these molecular building blocks. However, it is just different enough that when used to create DNA, Epivir actually stops the DNA from being made. Without DNA, HIV and HBV cannot multiply. It is important to understand that Epivir is not a cure for HIV, AIDS, or hepatitis B.
Epivir is approved to treat chronic hepatitis B in children as young as two years old and to treat HIV or AIDS in children as young as three months old. Talk with your child's healthcare provider about the benefits and risks of using Epivir in children.
On occasion, your healthcare provider may recommend Epivir for treating something other than HIV, AIDS, or hepatitis B. This is called an "off-label" use. At this time, Epivir is used off-label to prevent HIV infection in people exposed to the HIV virus (such as a healthcare worker who experiences a contaminated needle stick). This is called postexposure prophylaxis (PEP).