1 What is Isentress?

Brand: Isentress

Generic: Raltegravir

Isentress is an antiviral medication currently approved to treat HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) infection. It works by preventing HIV from replicating inside cells.

Raltegravir is always used along with other HIV medications.

Raltegravir may also be given to individuals who are at risk of having HIV infection due to occupational exposure, like needlestick injuries or exposure to blood.

HIV infection can gradually develop over time into acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), characterized by infections caused by very low immune system activity.

Medicines like Raltegravir prevent HIV viruses from replicating to delay the onset of AIDS. However, note that Raltegravir does not cure or treat HIV infection or prevent AIDS.

Raltegravir is a prescription medication and must be used only according to doctor’s instructions.

2 What to Know Before Using

Before using Isentress, you must know all about the risks and complications associated with it.

Do not use Raltegravir if you have allergies to it. Tell all your allergies to food, medicines or other substances before receiving Raltegravir.

Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or breastfeeding before receiving Raltegravir. Raltegravir may be harmful to the unborn baby when given to pregnant patients. Do not nurse a baby while taking Raltegravir.

Many medicines may be expressed in breast milk, and the safety of Raltegravir in babies is not well understood.

You must tell all your health conditions to the doctor before receiving Raltegravir.

The doctor will need to know if you have the following health problems:

  • Diseases of the liver or kidneys
  • History of hepatitis B or C infection
  • History of muscle problems or weakness, such as myopathy and rhabdomyolysis (rapid breakdown of skeletal muscles). Raltegravir must be used with caution in patients with these conditions
  • If you are on dialysis

Make sure to mention all medicines you take before receiving Raltegravir. Raltegravir interacts with certain medications that can cause undesirable effects.

Notify the doctor if you take the following medications:

  • Aluminum Hydroxide, which may reduce absorption of Raltegravir
  • Fibric acid derivatives such as Gemfibrozil, Fenofibrate, and Fenofibric acid, which may increase risk of rhabdomyolysis when taken with Raltegravir
  • Fosamprenavir
  • HMG-CoA Reductase Inhibitors
  • Magnesium Salts may reduce absorption of Raltegravir
  • Proton pumps inhibitor drugs such as Omeprazole, Esomeprazole, Pantoprazole, and Rabeprazole
  • Rifabutin
  • Rifampin
  • Rifapentine
  • Tipranavir
  • Zidovudine

Raltegravir can be given to children and elderly. Raltegravir must be used very carefully in babies less than 4 weeks old.

3 Proper Usage

To use Isentress properly, you must follow all instructions given by your doctor.

Each packaging of Raltegravir contains an extra information leaflet. Make sure you understand the information on the leaflet before taking Raltegravir. If you have questions, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

The doctor will determine the dose of Raltegravir. It is usually taken twice a day. For HIV treatment, Raltegravir is always given in combination with other HIV medications such as Tenofovir and Emtricitabine (or Lamivudine).

If you take Raltegravir as postexposure treatment (prophylaxis), you will take them twice a day for 4 weeks along with Emtricitabine and Tenofovir.

Raltegravir is available in powder for suspension, tablets and chewable tablets for oral consumption. Children ages 2 to 11 years old are often prescribed with chewable forms. Note that chewable tablet, oral suspension, and ordinary Raltegravir tablets are not interchangeable.

You can take Raltegravir with or without food. If you are prescribed with Raltegravir tablets, swallow them whole without chewing or breaking. Take Raltegravir at the same time every day.
Many antacids reduce absorption of Raltegravir, so call your doctor first before using them.

If the doctor prescribed Raltegravir as part of HIV treatment, make sure to take them every day and not miss any doses even if you feel fine.

If you missed a dose, take it as soon as you remember. If it is almost time for the next dose, skip the missed dose and return to regular dose schedule. Do not take more Raltegravir or take two doses to make up for the missed dose.

4 Precautions to Take

In using Isentress, you must be careful and take some precautions as advised by your doctor.

Do not stop taking Raltegravir without doctor’s instructions, even if you feel well and do not have any symptoms. If your supply gets low, get more from the doctor or pharmacist right away.

Stopping use of Raltegravir for even a short time can allow the HIV virus to acquire resistance to the drug, which makes it harder to treat.

Raltegravir does not reduce the risk of spreading HIV. You still need to do precautions to avoid spreading HIV to others.

This means you must still use condoms when having any kind of sex, avoid sharing needles, razors, syringes and toothbrushes. Contact your health provider for help in preventing the spread of HIV.

Raltegravir may cause dizziness, especially if you take it with alcohol and narcotic drugs. Make sure you know the effects of Raltegravir on you before doing activities like driving or operating heavy machinery.

Raltegravir may make your immune system more active in fighting infections and reveal hidden infection in your body. Call your doctor right away if you experience fever, sore throat, weakness, cough or shortness of breath shortly after taking Raltegravir.

Raltegravir may cause severe and sometimes fatal skin reactions such as Stevens-Johnson syndrome and toxic epidermal necrolysis.

Contact your doctor if you experience symptoms such as:

  • Blisters
  • Sores in the mouth
  • Fever and/or feelings of illness
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Rash, redness, swelling, blistering or peeling of skin
  • Redness and swelling of eyes
  • Severe fatigue
  • Trouble breathing
  • Swelling of the mouth, face, lips or tongue
  • Passing too little or no urine
  • Symptoms of liver problems such as passing out dark urine or pale stools, losing appetite, severe and persistent nausea or vomiting, pain in the abdomen, and jaundice

The doctor will schedule you to regular lab tests such as liver function tests and complete blood count. This is important to monitor your condition and detects early signs of side effects, so keep up with the appointments as much as possible.

If you became pregnant or breastfeed, call the doctor immediately. Pregnant patients infected with HIV can pass the virus to the unborn baby. Patients with HIV must never breastfeed because the virus may be expressed in breast milk.

5 Potential Side Effects

As with many medications, there are several potential side effects associated with Isentress.

Raltegravir may cause serious side effects that require immediate medical attention:

  • Severe allergic reactions such as rash, hives, difficulty swallowing, hoarseness, swelling of the lips, tongue or mouth
  • Symptoms of infection such as fever, chills, and persistent sore throat
  • Symptoms of liver problem such as passing out dark urine, losing appetite, pale stools, stomach pain, unusual bruising or bleeding, and jaundice
  • Back pain
  • Blood in the urine
  • Changes in urine output, especially passing too little urine
  • Reduced reflexes and coordination of the body
  • Mental changes like having paranoia, anxiety or depression
  • Having mouth sores or blisters
  • Muscle aches, tenderness or pain
  • Severe weakness
  • Severe dizziness
  • Suicidal thoughts or behavior

Raltegravir may cause the minor side effects such as:

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