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Home / Drugs / Starting with E / Emtricitabine

Emtricitabine is a nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NRTI) for the treatment of HIV infection in adults. Emtricitabine is an analogue of cytidine. The drug works by inhibiting reverse transcriptase, the enzyme that copies HIV RNA into new viral DNA.
CategoriesAntiviral Agents
Anti-HIV Agents
ManufacturersGilead sciences inc
PackagersAbbott Laboratories Ltd.
Excella GmbH
Gilead Sciences Inc.
Kaiser Foundation Hospital
Quality Care
Remedy Repack
Synthetics China


Indicated, in combination with other antiretroviral agents, for the treatment of HIV-1 infection in adults and for postexposure prophylaxis of HIV infection in health care workers and others exposed occupationally or nonoccupationally via percutaneous injury or mucous membrane or nonintact skin contact with blood, tissues, or other body fluids associated with risk for transmission of the virus.


Emtricitabine is a nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NRTI) with activity against Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 (HIV-1). Emtricitabine helps to block HIV reverse transcriptase, a chemical in your body (enzyme) that is needed for HIV to multiply. Emtricitabine is always used with other anti-HIV medicines to treat people with HIV infection. Emtricitabine may lower the amount of HIV in the blood (viral load). Emtricitabine may also help to increase the number of T cells called CD4 cells. Lowering the amount of HIV in the blood lowers the chance of death or infections that happen when your immune system is weak (opportunistic infections). People taking emtricitabine may still get opportunistic infections or other conditions that happen with HIV infection.

mechanism of action

Emtricitabine works by inhibiting reverse transcriptase, the enzyme that copies HIV RNA into new viral DNA. Emtricitabine is a synthetic nucleoside analogue of cytidine. It is phosphorylated by cellular enzymes to form emtricitabine 5'-triphosphate, which is responsible for the inhibition of HIV-1 reverse transcriptase. It competes with the natural substrate deoxycytidine 5'-triphosphate and incorporates into nascent viral DNA, resulting in early chain termination. Therefore emtricitabine inhibits the activity of HIV-1 reverse transcriptase (RT) both by competing with the natural substrate deoxycytidine 5'-triphosphate and by its incorporation into viral DNA. By inhibiting HIV-1 reverse transcriptase, emtricitabine can help to lower the amount of HIV, or "viral load", in a patient's body and can indirectly increase the number of immune system cells (called T cells or CD4+ T-cells). Both of these changes are associated with healthier immune systems and decreased likelihood of serious illness.


Symptoms of overdose include serious liver problems (hepatotoxicity, with liver enlargement and fat in the liver called steatosis) or a lactic acidosis (buildup of an acid in the blood).


Minimally transformed (13%), most appears unchanged in urine (86%). The biotransformation of emtricitabine includes oxidation of the thiol moiety to form the 3′-sulfoxide diastereomers (~ 9% of dose) and conjugation with glucuronic acid to form 2′-O-glucuronide (~ 4% of dose). In vitro studies indicate emtricitabine is not an inhibitor or cytochrome P450 enzymes.


Rapidly absorbed (mean absolute bioavailability of 93% for capsules, and 75% for solution). Food does not effect absorption.

half life

10 hours

route of elimination

The renal clearance of emtricitabine is greater than the estimated creatinine clearance, suggesting elimination by both glomerular filtration and active tubular secretion.