How Effective is Isentress & What are its Side Effects, Dosage?

In October 2007, the United States US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved isentress or raltegravir as integrase inhibitors for HIV patients. Its cost ranges from 17 dollars to 4 dollars per pill.

How Effective is Isentress?

How Effective is Isentress?

Isentress or raltegravir is a brand of antiretroviral drugs that effectively prevents the multiplication of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) in the body. Isentress or raltegravir helps to supplement the effectiveness of other antiretroviral drugs. Isentress or raltegravir is an integrase inhibitor due to the ability to effectively restrain the functioning of the “HIV Integrase”- the sole cause for acute multiplication of HIV. A patient can reduce his viral load to the barest minimum if he is faithful in taking his medications and medical checkups.

Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is an advanced stage of HIV. Isentress, which we also known as “Raltegravir” is not a cure for HIV and AIDS but acts as an effective suppression or reduction in the viral load. Viral load is the amount of virus in the blood stream. Someone with the virus can still infect another person even with the proper intake of HIV medications.

Cautions Before Taking Isentress

Before the use of isentress or raltegravir, inform your doctor if you have the history of;

  • Muscle Disorder such as myopathy
  • Liver Disease
  • Any form of mental illness
  • Phenylketonuria (PKU)

An HIV patient that has or ever had any of these above diseases should consult his or her doctor before the administration of isentress or raltegravir. Someone with PKU should also contact his or her physician because raltegravir chewable tablet contains phenylalanine.

The Use of Isentress Among Pregnant Women

There is no proof that isentress or raltegravir will harm a fetus. But, a woman who is pregnant or plans to be pregnant during the course of the administration of isentress or raltegravir should first tell her doctor.

Pregnant women, who are HIV positive, should be faithful with their medications to control their viral loads. This is because the virus can be transmitted to the fetus if the mother is not careful. Also, breastfeeding mothers who are having HIV are not to breastfeed their babies, because the virus can pass to the child through the breast milk.

A pregnant registry is always available at the clinic for the use of pregnant women. This is a book where they register their names to enable a proper follow-up on the state of their pregnancies. It is also used to monitor the baby after birth and to check if the use of isentress or raltegravir by the mother has any effect on the child. The registry gives the opportunity to give both the mother and child proper medical attention in case of any complication.

What is the Recommended Dosage of Isentress?

The amount of the intake of isentress or raltegravir differs in age, body weight and the level of HIV load in the body system. Isentress also comes in various forms; film- coated tablet, oral suspension, and chewable tablets. Oral suspensions are first dissolved in water before usage.

Isentress or Raltegravir Dosage for Children (Oral Suspension)

  • Age: 4 weeks and above
  • (3kg – < 4kg): 20milligrams two times a day
  • (4kg – < 6kg): 30milligrams two times a day
  • (6kg – < 8kg): 40milligrams two times a day
  • (8kg- <11kg): 60milligrams two times a day
  • (11kg – < 14kg): 80milligrams two times a day
  • (14kg – < 20kg): 100milligrams two times a day

Isentress or Raltegravir Dosage of Chewable Tablets (Children and Adults)

  • (11kg – < 14kg): 75milligrams two times a day
  • (14kg – < 20kg): 100milligrams two times a day
  • (20kg- < 28kg): 150milligrams two times a day
  • (28kg – < 40kg): 200milligrams two times a day
  • (40kg and above): 300milligrams two times a day

Isentress or Raltegravir Adult Dosage of Film-Coated Tablets:

  • 400milligrams orally two times a day OR
  • 1200 milligrams (2 x Isentress HD 600milligrams) once a day
  • Duration of therapy is for 28 days (4 weeks).

It is important not to stop nor reduce the dosage of isentress or raltegravir to prevent the progressive multiplication of the virus. Isentress or raltegravir can be taken with or without the intake of food. Peradventure there is unintentional skip of dosage; there is no need to fear. You can always take it as soon as you remember.

What are the Side Effects of Isentress?

Common side effects of isentress or raltegravir are:

Mild side effects of isentress or raltegravir are hives or reactions of the skin, such as skin redness and rashes. These skin reactions can peel, form blisters or spread to other parts of the body.

Severe side effects of isentress or raltegravir include difficulty in breathing, body tenderness, high blood pressure, fever, dark colouration of urine, clay colouration of stools, jaundice, muscle pain, pain in the upper part of the stomach. Other severe side symptoms are fever, pain in the joints, burning sensations in the eyes, swelling of tongue, face, lip, and throat.

In rare cases, isentress or raltegravir can cause the breakdown of the tissue of the skeletal muscle. This can further lead to kidney failure.

If you experience any of these side effects of isentress or raltegravir, it is better to contact your physician or seek immediate health care. You can also discontinue the use of isentress or raltegravir, but on the advice of a medical care giver. Isentress or raltegravir reacts with drugs such as UGT inducers, anticonvulsant, antipsychotic, and antibiotics called Rifadin. Thus, anyone taking these drugs should not take raltegravir without seeing a physician.

Effects of Isentress on Immune System

The use of isentress or raltegravir may have counter-effects on the patient’s immune systems. Isentress or raltegravir changes how body immune systems work. If care is not taken, it can also uproot new infections or certain autoimmune diseases.

There are symptoms to look out for to know if isentress or raltegravir is working in a reverse way. The common ones are highlighted below;

  • Sores: in the genitals, anus, mouth, face and feet.
  • Body Unwellness: fever, night sweats, tiredness, back pain, loss of appetite.
  • Respiratory Disorder: shortness of breath, chest pain, dry cough, wheezing, tuberculosis.
  • Sexual Disorder: decrease in libido, irregular menstruation, impotence.
  • Excretory Disorder: loss of bladder and bowel control.
  • Movement & Irritability: prickly feelings, inability to move, problem with balance and eye movement.

The Use of Isentress with Alcohol

Alcohol intake does not make antiretroviral drugs less effective. But it can reduce the level of adherence to prompt intake of dosage. Too much of alcohol can lead to series of hangover. This can make a patient sleep off and skip his or her medicine. Skipping of meds will be the cause of the less-effective functioning of isentress or raltegravir.

Another problem is that it can increase dizziness which is also one of the side effects of isentress or raltegravir. Alcohol too can reduce the functioning of the liver. This calls for the need of routine checkup by HIV patients.


Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is not a death sentence. A patient can live for more than two decades in good health with proper use of antiretroviral drugs. The intake of isentress or raltegravir should start as soon as possible, most preferably few hours to the exposure to the virus. The optimal duration of isentress or raltegravir is unknown although the average duration of its usage is twenty-eight days.

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:June 10, 2019

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