Atazanavir (Reyataz)

Atazanavir slows the progress of HIV infection.

Take one capsule a day, with or just after a meal.

It is one of a number of medicines that you will need to take regularly.

Atazanavir has been associated with some side-effects. Your doctor will discuss these with you before you start treatment.

About atazanavir

Type of medicine A protease inhibitor (PI) antiretroviral medicine
Used for Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection in adults and children over 6 years of age
Also called Reyataz®
Available as Capsules

Atazanavir is an antiretroviral medicine. It is used for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. It slows the progress of HIV infection, but it is not a cure. HIV destroys cells in the body, called CD4 T cells. These cells are a type of white blood cell and are important because they are involved in protecting your body from infection. If left untreated, the HIV infection weakens your immune system so that your body cannot defend itself against bacteria, viruses and other germs.

Atazanavir belongs to a group of antiretroviral medicines known as protease inhibitors (PIs). It is given alongside a number of other antiretroviral medicines, as part of a combination therapy. Taking three or more antiretroviral medicines at the same time is more effective than taking one alone. Taking a combination of different medicines also reduces the risk that the virus will become resistant to any individual medicine.

Atazanavir slows down the progress of HIV infection by reducing the amount of virus in your body. This helps improve your immune system and reduces the risk of you developing the complications associated with HIV infection. It will be prescribed for you by a doctor who is a specialist.

Before taking atazanavir

Some medicines are not suitable for people with certain conditions, and sometimes a medicine may only be used if extra care is taken. For these reasons, before you start taking atazanavir it is important that your doctor or pharmacist knows:

  • If you are pregnant, trying for a baby or breast-feeding.
  • If you have sugar diabetes.
  • If you have hepatitis (liver inflammation), or any other liver problem.
  • If you have been told you have a heart rhythm disorder.
  • If you have haemophilia (an inherited bleeding disorder), or porphyria (a rare inherited blood disorder).
  • If you are taking any other medicines. This includes any medicines you are taking which are available to buy without a prescription, such as herbal and complementary medicines.
  • If you have ever had an allergic reaction to a medicine.

How to take atazanavir

  • Before you start this treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside your pack. The leaflet will give you more information about atazanavir and a full list of side-effects which you may experience from taking it.
  • Take atazanavir exactly as your doctor has told you to. It is usual to take one dose each day at the same time as a medicine called ritonavir. There are several strengths of atazanavir capsule available - your doctor will tell you which is right for you (or your child). It is important that you take atazanavir after a meal, as this will help your body to absorb the medicine. Swallow the capsules whole (do not open or chew them). Take them with a drink of water.
  • Try to take atazanavir at the same time of day each day, as this will help you to remember to take it.
  • If you do forget to take a dose, take it with something to eat as soon as you remember. However, if when you remember it is nearly time for your next dose, then leave out the forgotten dose and take your next dose when it is due. Do not take two doses together to make up for a missed dose.

Getting the most from your treatment

  • Keep your regular appointments with your doctor so that your progress can be monitored. You may need to have regular blood tests while you are taking this medicine.
  • It is important that you continue to take atazanavir and your other antiretroviral treatment regularly. This will help to prevent the HIV from becoming resistant to the medicines you are taking. Even if you miss only a small number of doses, the virus can become resistant to treatment.
  • If you develop any infection soon after you start this treatment, let your doctor know. As a result of taking atazanavir, your immune system may start fighting an infection which was present before you started the treatment, but which you may not have been aware of.
  • Follow carefully any advice your doctor gives to you about making some lifestyle changes to reduce any risk of damage to your heart and blood vessels. These may include stopping smoking, eating healthily and taking regular exercise.
  • Although treatment with antiretroviral medicines may reduce the risk of your passing HIV to others through sexual contact, it does not stop it. It is important that you use condoms.
  • It is not uncommon for people with HIV to feel low or even depressed, especially soon after the diagnosis has been made. If you have any feelings of depression then you should speak with your doctor.
  • Some people who have taken antiretroviral medicines (particularly over a long time) have developed a condition called osteonecrosis. This is where some bone tissue dies because there is a reduced blood supply to it. It can cause joint aches and pains, and lead to difficulties in movement. If you notice any of these symptoms, speak with your doctor.
  • If you buy any medicines, check with a pharmacist that they are suitable to take with atazanavir and your other medicines. This is because some medicines and herbal remedies interfere with atazanavir and stop it from working properly. In particular, do not take indigestion remedies during the two hours before and the two hours after you take your doses, and do not take St John's wort.
  • If you have diabetes you may need to check your blood glucose more frequently, as this medicine may affect the levels of sugar in your blood. Your doctor will advise you about this.
  • If you are having an operation or dental treatment, tell the person carrying out the treatment which medicines you are taking.
  • Treatment for HIV is usually lifelong. Continue to take atazanavir unless you are advised otherwise, even if you feel well. This is to keep your immune system healthy.

Can atazanavir cause problems?

Along with their useful effects, all medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. These usually improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine, but speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following side-effects continue or become troublesome.

Common atazanavir side-effects - these affect less than 1 in 10 people who take this medicine
What can I do if I experience this?
Headache Ask your doctor to recommend a suitable painkiller
Feeling or being sick, stomach pain, indigestion Stick to simple meals - avoid rich or spicy food. If it continues, speak with your doctor
Diarrhoea Drink plenty of water to replace lost fluids
Yellow skin or yellowing of the whites of your eyes Let your doctor know about this straightaway
Feeling tired or dizzy Do not drive or use tools or machines until you feel better
Skin rash Let your doctor know about this straightaway

Some people taking atazanavir have developed kidney stones - let your doctor know as soon as possible if you feel pain in your side or when you pass urine, or if you notice any blood in your urine.

If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to this medicine, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.

How to store atazanavir

  • Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
  • Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.