Food Tips When Taking HIV Medications

Simple Guidelines Can Improve Drug Efficacy and Reduce Adverse Effects

Close-up of woman's hand eating salad
Close-up of woman's hand eating salad. Getty Images/Marie-Reine Mattera/Photononstop

Some HIV medications require food to be absorbed properly, while other HIV drugs need to be taken on an empty stomach. Here are key food tips offered by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for each antiretroviral drug (ARV) divided by its specific drug class. 

Improper adherence to food requirements can be just as problematic as forgetting to take your pills. In some cases, it can affect the bioavailability of the drug, reducing the actual amount of active ingredient that enters the bloodstream.

At other times, it can cause digestive problems or interfere with the pharmacokinetics (drug action) of an accompanying ARV.

Always speak with your doctor to ensure proper intake of your ARVs, as their advice may be different what is listed, based on your on personal medical history and health status.

Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NRTIs)

Drug Name Food Requirement
Ziagen (abacavir)None. Take with or without food.
Videx (didanosine)None. Take with or without food.
Emtriva (emtricitabine)None. Take with or without food.
Epivir (lamivudine)None. Take with or without food.
Zerit (stavudine)None. Take with or without food.
Viread (tenofovir)None. Take with or without food. Swallow
pill whole.
Retrovir (zidovudine, AZT)None. Take with or without food.

Non-Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NNRTIs)

Drug Name Food Requirement
Rescriptor (delavirdine)Take with or without food. May
need to be taken with an acidic juice
like cranberry or orange juice. Must
be taken at least one hour apart from
an antacid.
Sustiva (efavirenz)Take on an empty stomach,
preferably at bedtime.
Intelence (etravirine)Take after a meal and never on an
empty stomach. Swallow pill whole.
Viramune (nevirapine)None. Take with or without food.
Edurant (rilpivirine)Always take with a high-calorie meal.

Protease Inhibitors (PIs)

Drug NameFood Requirement
Reyataz (atazanavir)Take with food. Swallow pill whole.
Prezista (darunavir)Take with food. Swallow pill whole
with drink. 
Lexiva (fosamprenavir)None. Take with or without food.
Crixivan (indinavir)

Take every eight hours around the
clock and take with water or another
drink like nonfat milk, juice, or coffee
at least one hour before or two hours
after a meals. You can also take with
a light meal  low in calories, fat
and protein. When on Crixivan, drink
water throughout the day to help
reduce your risk of kidney stones.

Viracept (nelfinavir)Take with a meal.
Invirase (saquinavir)Take with full meal or up to two
hours after a meal.
Aptivus (tipranavir)Swallow the whole pill. Take with or
without meals, if taking with Norvir
capsules or oral solution. If taking
Aptivus with Norvir tablets, take
with a meal. The oral solution of
Aptivus contains vitamin E so
do not take extra vitamin E other
then what is in a standard
multivitamin.

Fusion Inhibitors

Drug NameFood Requirement
Fuzeon (enfuvirtide)

None as delivered via an injection.

Entry Inhibitors

Drug NameFood Requirement
Selzentry (maraviroc)Take with or without food. Swallow
pill whole.

Integrase Inhibitors

Drug Name

Food Requirement
Tivicay (dolutegravir)None. Take with or without food.
Vitekta (elvitegravir)Take with food.
Isentress (raltegravir)None. Take with or without food.

Pharmacokinetic Enhancers

Drug NameFood Requirement
Norvir (ritonavir)Take with meal and swallow
pill whole.
TyboTriumeqst (cobicisat)Take with food. Take Tybost
at the same time as Reyataz
or Prezista.

Fixed Dose Combination Drugs

Drug Food Requirement
Epzicom (abacavir +
lamivudine)
Take with or without food.
Triumeq (dolutegravir +
lamivudine + abacavir)
None. Take with or without food.
Trizivir (zidovudine +
lamivudine + abacavir)
None. Take with or without food.
Evotaz (atazanavir +
cobicistat)
Take without food.
Prezcobix (darunavir +
cobicistat)
Take with food.
Atripla (efavirenz +
tenofovir + emtricitabine)
Take on an empty stomach with water,
preferably at bedtime.
Stribild (elvitegravir +
cobicistat + tenofovir +
emtricitabine)
Take with food.
Complera (rilpivirine +
tenofovir+ emtricitabine)
Take with food.
Truvada (tenofovir +
emtricitabine)
None. Take with or without food.
Combivir (zidovudine +
lamivudine)
None. Take with or without food.
Kaletra (lopinavir +
ritonavir)
None. Take with or without food.
Swallow pill whole.

Source:

AIDSInfo. "HIV Treatment: FDA-Approved HIV Medicine." Accessed September 28, 2015.

Edited by Dennis Sifris, MD, and James Myhre

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