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Other Names: Reyataz, ATV, BMS-232632
What is it?
Atazanavir is an antiretroviral medication that belongs to a group of drugs known as protease inhibitors. It is used to treat HIV, a retrovirus. Retroviruses use the genetic material in the body’s cells to produce more virus which can infect other cells.
How does it work?
Atazanavir interferes with the life cycle of HIV to stop it from producing more virus. Specifically, atazanavir ties up the protease enzyme, which slows the production of new virus to prevent other cells from becoming infected.
How do I take it?
It is extremely important that you take atazanavir and your other antiretroviral medications exactly as directed. You should set up a system that will help you remember to take your medicines so that you do not miss any doses. If you miss a dose, take it as soon as possible; however, if you skip a dose, do not take two doses at once. Do not stop taking the medication for any reason at any time unless you are directed to do so by your provider. If you are unable to continue taking your medication due to side effects, you should contact your provider immediately.
Some drugs taken together may have interactions that cause illness or impair the effectiveness of the drugs. Since atazanavir is a new drug, studies are being done to determine what interactions there might be with other medications. Always check with your study clinician before taking any other medications, prescription or otherwise, to be sure it will not interact with atazanavir.
Atazanavir should not be taken with any of the following medications:
The medications listed above may be known by other names. In addition, there are many other medications that may have a potential interaction with atazanavir. Please notify your primary provider of all medications you take, including other study medications and herbal medications.
Not everyone experiences side effects. When they do occur, they may be mild, moderate or severe. Some side effects cannot be felt by the patient but can be found through laboratory tests, so it is important to see your provider regularly for checkups so that side effects can be detected early and treated.
The most common side effects of atazanavir include diarrhea, nausea or vomiting, headache, and fatigue. Other side effects that may occur include circumoral paresthesia (tingling sensation around the mouth), and changes in liver function, which can be detected and monitored with laboratory tests. An increase in bilirubin (by product of red blood cell break down) has been associated with atazanavir. Sometimes the increase in bilirubin results in jaundice (yellowing of skin and eyes). Report these symptoms to your provider for further evaluation.
Increases in blood sugar or the development of diabetes has been reported in a small number of patients taking protease inhibitors. Symptoms include increased thirst or hunger, weight loss, increased need to urinate, fatigue, or dry, itchy skin. Please contact your provider if any of these side effects occur.
Also, a condition called lipodystrophy (abnormal use of fats in the body) has been reported in some patients taking protease inhibitors. Symptoms vary among individuals, but they may include accumulation of fat tissue in the stomach area or the upper back, and a loss of mass in other areas of the body. Some people have experienced increases in cholesterol and triglycerides that have required the use of lipid lowering medications. Atazanavir has demonstrated a low incidence of lipodystrophy in the patients studied thus far.
The benefits of taking protease inhibitors far outweigh the risk of developing lipodystrophy or diabetes. Therefore, at this time, we strongly encourage you to take your medications exactly as prescribed. Notify your provider if any of these side effects are bothersome and may prevent you from taking your medication.
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