What is Emtricitabine?


Emtricitabine is an antiretroviral medication used in the treatment of HIV infection. It belongs to the class of drugs known as nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs), which block the activity of reverse transcriptase, an enzyme crucial for the replication of HIV. Emtricitabine is often used in combination with other antiretroviral agents to enhance efficacy and reduce the risk of resistance.

Mechanism of Action

Emtricitabine works by incorporating itself into the viral DNA being synthesized by reverse transcriptase. This incorporation causes premature termination of the viral DNA chain, effectively inhibiting the replication of HIV. By reducing the amount of HIV in the body, emtricitabine helps improve immune function and reduces the risk of HIV-related complications.


Emtricitabine is used as part of combination antiretroviral therapy (ART) for the treatment of HIV-1 infection. It is commonly included in fixed-dose combination pills with other antiretrovirals, such as tenofovir disoproxil fumarate, tenofovir alafenamide, and efavirenz. Emtricitabine is also used in pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) regimens to reduce the risk of HIV infection in high-risk populations.

Approval and Availability

Emtricitabine was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2003. It is available under the brand name Emtriva, as well as in several fixed-dose combination products, including Truvada (emtricitabine/tenofovir disoproxil fumarate), Descovy (emtricitabine/tenofovir alafenamide), and Atripla (emtricitabine/tenofovir disoproxil fumarate/efavirenz).

Side Effects of Emtricitabine

Common side effects of emtricitabine include headache, diarrhea, nausea, fatigue, and rash. In rare cases, it can cause more serious side effects such as lactic acidosis, severe hepatomegaly with steatosis, and acute exacerbations of hepatitis B in co-infected individuals. Regular monitoring and consultations with healthcare providers are essential to manage any potential adverse effects.