Vemlidy side effects and how to avoid them
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Vemlidy is a brand-name medication manufactured by Gilead Sciences, Inc. It is classified as a nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NRTIs) and is used for the treatment of chronic hepatitis B infection. While Vemlidy is generally well tolerated, there are some potential side effects that people should be aware of. The most common side effects of Vemlidy include headaches and tiredness. Less common but more serious side effects can include kidney problems. Learn more about the side effects of Vemlidy and what you can do to avoid them.
What is Vemlidy (tenofovir alafenamide)?
Vemlidy is a medicine prescribed to treat chronic hepatitis B infection in adults with liver damage. It helps to stop the virus from multiplying and spreading through your liver cells. This can lower the amount of virus in your body and improve the condition of your liver.
Hepatitis B is an infection of your liver caused by the hepatitis B virus. You catch the virus from an infected person’s body fluids, most often from sharing intravenous needles or through sex. When you first get the infection (the acute phase), you can feel symptoms like abdominal pain, fever, nausea and vomiting, tiredness, a yellow tinge to your skin, and dark urine. It can take some time for you to feel any symptoms, sometimes 30 to 180 days after you’re infected. Some people may feel no symptoms at all.
Most people recover from the initial infection and clear the virus from their bodies. But around 10% of people don’t clear the virus and develop a long-term infection (chronic phase). If you have a chronic hepatitis B infection, you likely won’t feel any symptoms, but the virus can damage your liver over time. This damage can lead to compensated liver disease, where your liver becomes scarred but still retains some to most of its function. If the liver damage progresses, it can result in cirrhosis (damage that leads to liver failure) and can cause liver cancer.
The hepatitis B virus copies itself and spreads through the cells of your liver. If it copies itself faster than your immune system can kill it, the virus persists and spreads and can damage your liver. Vemlidy helps with this by preventing the virus from copying itself. The active ingredient tenofovir alafenamide interrupts a key stage of the replication process where the virus copies its genetic code inside your cells. This stops the virus from spreading and can improve your liver function.
What are the side effects of Vemlidy?
The most common possible side effects of Vemlidy include:
- A cough
- Stomach pain
- Back pain, joint pain (arthralgia)
- Increased fasted low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol
In rare instances, Vemlidy can cause more serious side effects, including:
- Severe allergic reactions – symptoms include rash, itching, swelling of the face, tongue, or throat, severe dizziness, and trouble breathing
- A potentially life-threatening condition called lactic acidosis caused by a build-up of lactic acid in your blood
- Liver problems – upper stomach pain, unusual tiredness, loss of appetite, clay-colored stools, dark urine, yellowing of the skin or eyes
- New or worsening kidney problems, including kidney failure
- Fanconi syndrome (type of kidney disease)
- A worsening of your hepatitis B infection
If you experience any of these serious side effects, stop taking Vemlidy and seek medical attention immediately. You are encouraged to report adverse reactions of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit www.fda.gov/medwatch, or call 1-800-FDA-1088.
Vemlidy is available in 25 mg tablets. Before starting treatment with Vemlidy, your doctor will check you do not have an HIV-1 infection.
Take Vemlidy once daily with food, at the same time each day. Do not miss taking Vemlidy. If you forget to take a dose, take it as soon as you remember, but skip the missed dose if it is almost time for your next dose. If you are receiving dialysis treatment, take your daily dose after your dialysis.
Store Vemlidy tablets in their original container at room temperature, away from moisture and heat. You are advised to read the complete medication guide provided with this medicine for drug information and patient information. Always speak with your healthcare provider for medical advice about any changes to your dose so they can monitor and evaluate your condition.
How long do you take Vemlidy?
You will usually take Vemlidy for at least 6 to 12 months, but treatment may last several years. Speak to your doctor about your treatment plan if you have any questions.
Vemlidy drug interactions
Vemlidy can interact with other medications, including:
- Any medicines that have tenofovir alafenamide, tenofovir disoproxil fumarate, or adefovir dipivoxil in them
- Any antibiotics that have rifabutin, rifampin, or rifapentine in them
- Antiviral medicines used to treat HIV, like ritonavir, lopinavir, or atazanavir
- Anticonvulsants used to treat epilepsy, like carbamazepine, oxcarbazepine, phenobarbital, or phenytoin
- Antifungal medicines, like ketoconazole or itraconazole
- Herbal remedies used to treat depression and anxiety that contain St. John’s wort
Before taking Vemlidy, be sure to tell your doctor about all of the medications you are taking to ensure they are safe to take at the same time.
Vemlidy warnings & precautions
- Are allergic to the active ingredient tenofovir alafenamide
- Are allergic to any of the other ingredients in Vemlidy
- Are under 18 years of age
Talk to your doctor before taking Vemlidy if you:
- Are taking any of the medications that could interact with Vemlidy (see the section above)
- Have HIV/AIDS
- Have a chronic kidney disease called end-stage renal disease (ESRD)
- Have any other kidney problems
- Have any other liver problems
- Have hepatitis C or D
- Are pregnant or are planning to get pregnant
- Are breastfeeding or are planning to breastfeed – It is not known if this medication passes into breast milk
- Are lactose intolerant
You should always check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking any medication, including Vemlidy, to make sure it is safe for you.
Is Vemlidy safe?
Vemlidy may cause serious side effects such as worsening of the hepatitis B virus infection. Your doctor will monitor you and carry out blood tests while you are taking this medication to make sure it is safe for you.
Does Vemlidy cause hair loss?
Hair loss as a side effect has been reported in African American women aged 40 to 61.
Will Vemlidy cure your liver?
Vemlidy is used to treat chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) in adults and will reduce the amount of HBV in your body. It may improve your liver condition.
Can Vemlidy cure hepatitis B?
Vemlidy will reduce levels of hepatitis B virus, and vaccines can prevent hepatitis B, but there is no cure for hepatitis B.
Can Vemlidy be used during pregnancy?
Vemlidy should only be used during pregnancy if the benefits outweigh the risks. Discuss your treatment options with your doctor before you start using Vemlidy if you are pregnant.
What happens when you stop taking Vemlidy?
Stopping treatment with Vemlidy may cause severe acute exacerbations of hepatitis B. This could potentially be life-threatening in patients with advanced liver disease or cirrhosis.
How to avoid Vemlidy side effects
The best way to avoid side effects is to take Vemlidy as directed by your doctor. Follow your doctor’s instructions carefully and do not take more or less than prescribed.
If you experience any side effects, talk to your doctor or pharmacist. They may be able to recommend ways to help reduce or prevent some of the side effects.
1. Stick to the recommended dosage
Take your prescribed dose of Vemlidy that has been recommended by your healthcare professional. Do not take more or less than prescribed.
2. Monitor your blood sugar levels
If you have diabetes, it is important to monitor your blood sugar levels closely while taking Vemlidy. Check your blood sugar levels as directed by your doctor and report any changes to your doctor immediately.
3. Drink plenty of fluids
Drink eight to 10 glasses of water or fluids every day to help prevent dehydration, which can worsen side effects.
4. Avoid alcohol
Avoid drinking alcohol while taking Vemlidy, as it can increase your risk of liver damage.
5. Don’t skip meals
Eating regular meals and snacks will help to prevent low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia).
6. Check your feet
If you have diabetes, check your feet for any cuts, sores, or redness regularly. Tell your doctor if you experience any problems with your feet while taking Vemlidy.
7. Know the signs and symptoms of Vemlidy side effects
Signs and symptoms of side effects include headaches and tiredness. If you experience any of these symptoms, speak to your doctor for medical advice.
8. Monitor your weight
Vemlidy may cause weight gain. If you experience this side effect while taking Vemlidy, get medical advice from your doctor.
9. Tell your doctor about all medications you’re taking
Be sure to tell your doctor about all other medications you’re taking, including over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, and herbal supplements, as they can interact with Vemlidy.
10. Get regular medical check ups
It is important to get regular medical check ups and monitor your medical conditions. Your doctor will monitor your side effects and may adjust your dose of Vemlidy as needed.
A medical professional has reviewed this article.