STD Home > Precautions and Warnings With Emtricitabine

It is important to understand the precautions and warnings with emtricitabine before starting treatment with the medication. For example, emtricitabine can cause dangerous conditions, such as lactic acidosis, hepatic steatosis, and bone marrow depression. The precautions and warnings with emtricitabine also extend to people who are allergic to any ingredients used to make the medication.

Emtricitabine: What Should I Tell My Healthcare Provider?

You should talk with your healthcare provider prior to taking emtricitabine (Emtriva®) if you have:
  • Hepatitis B
  • Kidney disease, such as kidney failure (renal failure)
  • Neutropenia, or any other low blood count or blood disorder
  • Any allergies, including allergies to food, dyes, or preservatives.
Also, let your healthcare provider know if you are:
  • Pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant
  • Breastfeeding.
You should also be sure to tell your healthcare provider about all of the other medicines you are taking, including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.

Specific Precautions and Warnings With Emtricitabine

Some of the warnings and precautions to be aware of prior to taking emtricitabine include the following:
  • Rarely, emtricitabine can cause lactic acidosis or hepatic steatosis. These conditions are caused by damage to the liver and can be very dangerous. You are at a higher risk for these side effects if you have liver disease.
  • If you have hepatitis B, it is possible that your hepatitis B infection may worsen if you stop taking emtricitabine. If you have hepatitis B and you stop taking emtricitabine, your healthcare provider may need to monitor you more closely. Emtricitabine has not been studied in people who are infected with both HIV and hepatitis B.
  • Emtricitabine can cause bone marrow depression, which means that it can decrease the bone marrow's ability to produce blood cells. This can lead to a variety of problems, such as anemia, frequent infections, or bleeding. Your healthcare provider should check your blood counts frequently while you are taking emtricitabine.
  • Emtricitabine can change the distribution of fat on your body. You may gain fat in areas that are not typical for you, such as in the abdomen or at the back of the neck (a "buffalo hump"), and you may lose weight in other areas.
  • Emtricitabine is not a cure for HIV or AIDS. If you have HIV or AIDS, you should always use safer sex practices, regardless of whether you are taking medications.
  • As with all HIV medications, it is important that you take emtricitabine exactly as prescribed. Missing doses may increase the chance of the virus becoming resistant to HIV medications.


  • When you first start taking this medication and your immune system begins to recover, a group of problems known as immune reconstitution syndrome may occur. Your immune system may start aggressively reacting to any infections you may have and may cause extreme inflammation. There have even been cases of autoimmune disorders (such as Graves' disease, polymyositis, and Guillain-Barré syndrome) possibly caused by this problem. 


  • Emtricitabine can interact with a few different medications (see Drug Interactions With Emtricitabine for more information).
  • Emtricitabine is considered a pregnancy Category B medication. This means that it is probably safe for use during pregnancy, although the full risks are not known (see Emtriva and Pregnancy).
  • Emtricitabine passes through breast milk. Therefore, if you are breastfeeding or plan to start breastfeeding, discuss this with your healthcare provider prior to taking the drug (see Emtriva and Breastfeeding). It is important to understand that the HIV virus can be transmitted through breast milk and that breastfeeding is usually not recommended in women with HIV or AIDS.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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