Emtriva (emtricitabine): Basics, Side Effects & Reviews
Emtriva (emtricitabine)

Emtriva (emtricitabine)

Basics, Side Effects, Reviews & More

Emtriva (emtricitabine) is a first choice HIV antiretroviral (ARV) used in combination with other HIV ARVs for the treatment and prevention of HIV. It is one of the most common HIV ARVs used around the world.






Not a controlled medication


Lower-cost generic available


Prescription only

Reviewed by:

Hope Chang, PharmD, AAHIVP

Michelle Nguyen, PharmD

Last reviewed on:

November 29, 2020


What is Emtriva (emtricitabine)?

How Emtriva (emtricitabine) works

Emtriva (emtricitabine) is a nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NRTI). It inserts itself into the virus' DNA by pretending to be a DNA building block, but actually stops the DNA making process. When this happens the HIV virus can't make copies of itself.

What is Emtriva (emtricitabine) used for?

  • HIV treatment

Emtriva (emtricitabine) dosage forms

bottle of oral solution icon
bottle of oral solution
capsule icon

Typical dosing for Emtriva (emtricitabine)


  • Capsule: 200 mg once a day
  • Oral solution: 240 mg once a day

Children: The dose is based on the child's age, weight, and whether they are taking the capsule or the oral solution

Frequently asked questions about Emtriva (emtricitabine)

Pros and cons of Emtriva (emtricitabine)


Thumbs UpVery effective against HIV, with few side effects

Thumbs UpTaken only once a day with or without food

Thumbs UpAvailable in many combination tablets with other HIV ARVs

Thumbs UpAvailable as a capsule and oral solution

Thumbs UpCan be used in pregnancy and in children right after they are born


Thumbs DownDose must be adjusted if you have kidney problems

Thumbs DownMust be used in combination with other HIV ARVs

Thumbs DownThe oral solution is absorbed less than the capsule, so the dose is higher

Thumbs DownSome people with hepatitis B virus (HBV) have worsening of the liver after stopping Emtriva (emtricitabine)

Thumbs DownRequires regular labs to make sure the medication is working against HIV and to check your kidney and liver

Pharmacist tips for Emtriva (emtricitabine)

Capsule IconTake Emtriva (emtricitabine) at the same time everyday, with or without food.

Capsule IconIf you have kidney problems, make sure you get your labs done regularly and pay attention to your dosing instructions. Some people with severe kidney problems take Emtriva (emtricitabine) less often to prevent build up of the medication.

Capsule IconThe oral solution should be kept in the fridge, but not frozen. It can be kept at room temperature for 3 months, after 3 months it should be thrown away.

Capsule IconDon't stop taking Emtriva (emtricitabine) without talking to your healthcare provider first. Stopping the medication can lead to a HBV flare up and uncontrolled HIV.

Capsule IconOpening the capsules is not recommended by the manufacturer. If you or your child has a hard time swallowing the capsules, talk to your provider about the oral solution. Remember, the oral solution dose will be more than the capsule dose.

Prices for Emtriva (emtricitabine) start at just $141.26 with a GoodRx coupon. They’re fast, easy-to-use and free!

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What are the side effects of Emtriva (emtricitabine)?

With any medication, there are risks and benefits. Even if the medication is working, you may experience some unwanted side effects.

Caution Small The following side effects may get better over time as your body gets used to the medication. Let your doctor know immediately if you continue to experience these symptoms or if they worsen over time.

Common side effects

  • Changes in labs (30%)
  • Nausea (9%)
  • Fatigue (9%)
  • Diarrhea (9%)
  • Dizziness (8%)
  • Flu/cold (8%)
  • Runny nose (8%)
  • Rash (7%)

Source: DailyMed

The following side effects have also been reported:

Side effects that you should report to your doctor or health care professional as soon as possible:

  • allergic reactions like skin rash, itching or hives, swelling of the face, lips, or tongue
  • breathing problems
  • changes in vision
  • dizziness
  • fast, irregular heart beat
  • muscle pain
  • nausea, vomiting, unusual upset stomach or stomach pain
  • signs and symptoms of liver injury like dark yellow or brown urine; general ill feeling or flu-like symptoms; light-colored stools; loss of appetite; nausea; right upper belly pain; unusually weak or tired; yellowing of the eyes or skin
  • signs of infection - fever or chills, cough, sore throat, pain or trouble passing urine

Side effects that usually do not require medical attention (report to your doctor or health care professional if they continue or are bothersome):

What are the risks and warnings for Emtriva (emtricitabine)?

Emtriva (emtricitabine) can cause some serious health issues. This risk may be even higher for certain groups. If this worries you, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about other options


  • Risk factors: Hepatitis B virus | Stopping Emtriva (emtricitabine)

Black Box Warning People who have stopped taking Emtriva (emtricitabine) have had severe worsening of their hepatitis B. Before you start Emtriva (emtricitabine) your provider will check if you have hepatitis B. If you do, your provider might start you on an anti-hepatitis B medication. Don't stop taking Emtriva (emtricitabine) unless instructed by your healthcare provider.


  • Risk factors: Weakened immune system | Current untreated infection

HIV attacks your immune system. Over time, if the virus isn't treated your body may become defenseless against bacterial and fungal infections. Your HIV medications are very good at killing the virus, and when the number of viruses goes down, your immune system gets started making more cells. Once your immune system gets better, it will start to fight off any infections you might have, which can lead to a lot of inflammation. Even though it's a good thing that your immune system is getting better, too much inflammation can be bad. Your healthcare provider might check for underlying infections (sometimes called opportunistic infections) before starting Emtriva (emtricitabine) especially if it is your first time taking HIV medications. Call your provider if you experience fever, difficulty breathing, or sudden changes to your health after starting Emtriva (emtricitabine).


  • Risk factors: Obesity | Women | History of liver problems

Although rare, NRTIs including Emtriva (emtricitabine) can cause a life-threatening liver problem called lactic acidosis with hepatic steatosis. Most of the cases have been in women. Symptoms can include appetite loss, stomach pain, muscle pain, fast and shallow breathing, extreme tiredness, and sudden weakness. Stop taking Emtriva (emtricitabine) and go to the emergency room right away if this happens.

How much does Emtriva (emtricitabine) cost?

Emtriva (emtricitabine) is available as a generic medication and may be significantly cheaper compared to the brand version. Unless there is a specific reason you need the brand, the generic medication will be a better value. For even more savings, use a GoodRx coupon and pay just a fraction of the retail price.

Lowest GoodRx Price
Emtriva (brand)


Lowest GoodRx Price
emtricitabine (generic)


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Pricing based on most commonly-filled versions: 30 capsules of emtricitabine 200mg

What are alternatives to Emtriva (emtricitabine)?

There are a number of medications that your doctor can prescribe in place of Emtriva (emtricitabine). Compare a few possible alternatives below.

Emtriva (emtricitabine)
Drug Class:HIV ARV


lowest GoodRx price

View Prices
Lamivudine (Epivir)
Drug Class:Antiretroviral (ARV)


lowest GoodRx price

View Prices
Zidovudine (Retrovir)
Drug Class:HIV ARV


lowest GoodRx price

View Prices

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