Atovaquone (Wellvone)

How does it work?

Wellvone suspension contains the active ingredient atovaquone. This is an antiprotozoal medicine used to treat chest infections caused by a parasite called Pneumocystis jirovecii (previously known as Pneumocystis carinii). This infection is also known as PCP and is commonly seen in people with reduced immunity, such as people with acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS).

Pneumocystis jirovecii is a yeast-like fungus. Atovaquone kills this parasite by stopping it from producing certain substances that the parasite needs to make genetic material (DNA and RNA). This stops the parasite from being able to repair itself and reproduce in numbers.

What is it used for?

  • Mild to moderate pneumonia caused by Pneumocystis jirovecii (Pneumocystis carinii), that cannot be treated with co-trimoxazole. This infection is also known as PCP. It is common in people with AIDS.

How do I take it?

  • Wellvone suspension must be taken with food (preferably a meal with a high fat content). This is because food helps the medicine to be absorbed into the bloodstream and thus makes it more effective. Tell your doctor if you have problems taking this medicine with food.
  • The usual dose is one 5ml spoonful (750mg) taken twice a day, morning and evening. Shake the bottle before measuring out a dose.
  • If you forget to take a dose at your usual time take it with food as soon as you remember, unless it is nearly time for your next dose. In this case, leave out the missed dose and just take your next dose as usual. Do not take a double dose to make up for a missed dose.
  • The medicine is usually taken for 21 days.
  • Unless otherwise directed by your doctor, make sure you complete the course of this medicine, even if you feel better and think the infection has cleared up.


  • Diarrhoea is a common side effect with this medicine, and can decrease the amount of atovaquone absorbed into the body. This may result in treatment with Wellvone not being effective. If you experience diarrhoea during treatment, or have problems taking this medicine with food, you must tell your doctor as you may need a different treatment.

Use with caution in

  • Elderly people.
  • People with decreased kidney function.
  • People with decreased liver function.
  • Diarrhoea (see warning section above).

Not to be used in

  • This medicine is not recommended for children as there is insufficient information about its safety and effectiveness.

This medicine should not be used if you are allergic to any of its ingredients. Please inform your doctor or pharmacist if you have previously experienced such an allergy.

If you feel you have experienced an allergic reaction, stop using this medicine and inform your doctor or pharmacist immediately.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding

Certain medicines should not be used during pregnancy or breastfeeding. However, other medicines may be safely used in pregnancy or breastfeeding providing the benefits to the mother outweigh the risks to the unborn baby. Always inform your doctor if you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, before using any medicine.

  • The safety of this medicine for use during pregnancy has not been established. It should not be used during pregnancy unless the benefits to the mother outweigh any potential risks to the developing baby. Tell your doctor if you are or think you could be pregnant.
  • It is not known if this medicine passes into breast milk. It is not recommended for use during breastfeeding. Mothers who need treatment with this medicine will usually be advised to bottlefeed. Seek further medical advice from your doctor.

Label warnings

  • Take this medication with or after food.

Side effects

Medicines and their possible side effects can affect individual people in different ways. The following are some of the side effects that are known to be associated with this medicine. Just because a side effect is stated here, it does not mean that all people using this medicine will experience that or any side effect.

Very common (affect more than 1 in 10 people)

  • Feeling sick.
  • Rash and itching.

Common (affect between 1 in 10 and 1 in 100 people)

  • Diarrhoea - see warning section above.
  • Being sick.
  • Headache.
  • Low red blood cell count (anaemia).
  • Decrease in the number of a type of white blood cell (neutrophil) in the blood (neutropenia).
  • Low blood sodium level (hyponatraemia).
  • Difficulty sleeping (insomnia).
  • Fever.
  • Alteration in results of liver function tests.
  • Nettle rash (hives).
  • Allergic reactions such as rash, or severe swelling of lips, face or tongue (angioedema).

Frequency unknown

  • Severe skin rash called erythema multiforme.
  • Severe allergic blistering skin reaction (Stevens-Johnson syndrome).

The side effects listed above may not include all of the side effects reported by the medicine's manufacturer.

For more information about any other possible risks associated with this medicine, please read the information provided with the medicine or consult your doctor or pharmacist.

How can this medicine affect other medicines?

It is important to tell your doctor or pharmacist what medicines you are already taking, including those bought without a prescription and herbal medicines, before you start treatment with this medicine. Similarly, check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking any new medicines in combination with this one, to make sure that the combination is safe.

The amount of atovaquone in the blood may be reduced by the following medicines. If you are taking one of these it could make atovaquone less effective at treating PCP:

  • efavirenz (not recommended in combination with atovaquone)
  • metoclopramide
  • rifampicin and rifabutin (these are not recommended in combination with atovaquone)
  • tetracycline.

Atovaquone may decrease the blood level of the anti-HIV medicine indinavir. This could make the indinavir less effective.

Atovaquone may increase the blood level of the anti-HIV medicine zidovudine and the chemotherapy medicine etoposide. It could increase the risk of side effects from these medicines.

Atovaquone is not recommended for people being treated with histamine for leukaemia.

Other medicines containing the same active ingredient

There are currently no other medicines available in the UK that contain atovaquone only as the active ingredient.

Malarone contains atovaquone in combination with proguanil. This medicine is used to prevent and treat malaria.