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Pronounced: REB-eh-tol
Generic name: Ribavirin

Why is this drug prescribed: In combination with the interferon drugs Intron A or PEG-Intron, Rebetol is prescribed to treat chronic hepatitis C. Rebetol is always used with one of the other drugs. By itself, it is ineffective against hepatitis C.

Most important fact about this drug: Extreme care should be taken to avoid pregnancy when a woman or her partner is taking Rebetol. The drug poses a significant risk of serious harm to developing infants, even at lower doses, and it can also cause abnormalities in a man's sperm. The doctor will want to see a negative pregnancy report immediately before starting Rebetol therapy; and pregnancy tests should be done every month during therapy and for six months after it stops. Use at least two forms of birth control during treatment and for six months afterwards.

How should you take this medication: Make sure you drink plenty of water while taking Rebetol, especially when you first begin taking this medication. You may take Rebetol with or without food, but whichever way you choose, do it consistently. --If you miss a dose... Take it as soon as you remember. If it is almost time for your next dose, skip the one you missed and go back to your regular schedule. Never take 2 doses at once. --Storage instructions... Store at room temperature.

What side effects may occur: Side effects cannot be anticipated. If any develop or change in intensity, tell your doctor immediately. Only your doctor can determine whether it is safe for you to continue taking Rebetol. Side effects may include: Abdominal pain, abnormal taste, agitation, anemia, anxiety, appetite loss, blood disorders, blurred vision, bone marrow problems, chest pain, chills, conjunctivitis ("pinkeye"), constipation, coughing, depression, diabetes, diarrhea, dizziness, dry mouth, dry skin, emotional instability, enlarged liver, fatigue, feeling of unwellness, fever, flu-like symptoms, flushing, hair loss, headache, hearing problems, immune disorders and infections, impaired concentration, indigestion, injection site inflammation, insomnia, irritability, itching, joint pain, menstrual disorder, muscle pain, nausea, nervousness, nasal inflammation, pancreas and lung disorders, rash, shortness of breath, sinus inflammation, sore throat, suicidal thoughts, sweating, thyroid problems, vertigo, viral or fungal infection, vomiting, weakness, weight loss

Why should this drug not be prescribed: Do not take Rebetol if: You are pregnant or your partner is pregnant You have autoimmune hepatitis (Rebetol can make this type of hepatitis worse.) You have certain blood disorders, such as thalassemia major or sickle-cell anemia You have severe or unstable heart disease You've ever had an allergic reaction to the active ingredient ribavirin

Special warnings about this medication: Within two weeks of starting treatment with Rebetol, about one patient in 10 develops a severe form of anemia. Your doctor will order blood tests periodically to check for this condition. Severe anemia is a serious condition that can lead to a potentially fatal heart attack. Rebetol should be used with caution if you have a heart condition. Your doctor will perform heart tests such as an ECG before you begin treatment and will monitor your heart closely while you are taking Rebetol. You may have to discontinue therapy if you develop heart-related problems or if your heart condition gets worse. Treatment with Rebetol and Intron A or PEG-Intron can have other serious side effects, including depression and suicidal thoughts, changes in bone marrow, pancreas and lung disorders, diabetes, and immune and infectious disorders. If you develop symptoms of these conditions, your doctor may have to discontinue treatment with Rebetol. The risk of side effects is greater for individuals with poor kidney function. If you have this problem, your doctor will monitor you closely and adjust your dosage if necessary. Since many older adults have impaired kidney, liver, and heart function, the dosage of Rebetol is often decreased for these individuals. The safety and effectiveness of Rebetol treatment have not been established for individuals with organ transplants, uncontrolled liver disease, and hepatitis B or HIV infections. Your doctor will have your liver function tested before you begin taking Rebetol. The safety and efficacy of Rebetol have not been established in children.

Possible food and drug interactions when taking this medication: If Rebetol is taken with other drugs, the effects of either could be increased, decreased, or altered. Check with your doctor before combining Rebetol with other medications.

Special information if you are pregnant or breastfeeding: Rebetol may cause birth defects or death in the developing infant. Neither a woman nor her partner should take Rebetol while she is pregnant. Use two forms of contraception if either partner is taking Rebetol. Continue using two forms of contraception for 6 months after treatment is finished. If pregnancy occurs during Rebetol therapy or within 6 months afterwards, check with your doctor immediately. It is not known whether Rebetol appears in breast milk. Because of the potential for serious adverse effects on the nursing infant, you should not breastfeed your baby while taking Rebetol.

Recommended dosage: Your doctor will tailor your dosage to fit your needs. Your dosage will be lowered if you develop anemia while taking Rebetol. TREATMENT WITH REBETOL AND INTRON A: The dosage depends on your body weight. The usual dose for individuals weighing 165 pounds or less is 400 milligrams in the morning and 600 milligrams in the evening. The usual daily dose for individuals weighing over 165 pounds is 1,200 milligrams divided into 2 doses. The recommended duration of treatment for people who have not taken an interferon drug previously is 24 to 48 weeks. If you've taken interferon in the past and have had a relapse, the recommended duration of treatment is 24 weeks. TREATMENT WITH REBETOL AND PEG-INTRON: The usual dose is 800 milligrams divided into 2 doses.

Overdosage: No adverse effects of Rebetol overdose have been reported. Nevertheless, any medication taken in excess may have serious consequences. If you suspect an overdose of Rebetol, seek medical attention immediately.

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