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Pronounced: FORT-o-vace
Generic name: Saquinavir

Why is this drug prescribed: Fortovase is used in the treatment of advanced human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. HIV causes the immune system to break down so that it can no longer fight off other infections. This leads to the fatal disease known as acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). Fortovase belongs to a class of HIV drugs called protease inhibitors, which work by interfering with an important step in the virus's reproductive cycle. Fortovase is used in combination with other HIV drugs called nucleoside analogues (Retrovir or Hivid, for example). The combination produces an increase in the immune system's vital CD4 cells (white blood cells) and reduces the amount of virus in the bloodstream.

Most important fact about this drug: Fortovase will not cure an HIV infection. You will continue to face the possibility of complications, including opportunistic infections (rare infections that develop only when the immune system falters, such as certain types of pneumonia, tuberculosis, and fungal infections). Therefore, it is important that you remain under the care of a doctor and keep all your follow-up appointments.

How should you take this medication: Take this medication exactly as prescribed by your doctor. Do not share this medication with anyone and do not exceed your recommended dosage. Take Fortovase with a meal or within 2 hours afterwards. This allows the drug to be properly absorbed by your body. Your doctor will perform laboratory tests before you start therapy with Fortovase and at regular intervals during your therapy to see how you are reacting to the medication. --If you miss a dose... Take it as soon as possible. If it is almost time for your next dose, skip the one you missed and go back to your regular schedule. Never take a double dose. --Storage instructions... Store Fortovase in the refrigerator in a tightly closed bottle. The capsules should be used within 3 months if they've been allowed to reach room temperature.

What side effects may occur: Side effects cannot be anticipated. If any develop or change in intensity, tell your doctor as soon as possible. Only your doctor can determine if it is safe for you to continue taking Fortovase. Possible side effects may include: Abdominal discomfort and pain, appetite disturbance, depression, diarrhea, dizziness, fatigue, gas, headache, indigestion, mouth sores, muscle and bone pain, nausea, numbness in the arms and legs, tingling or "pins and needles" sensation, vomiting, weakness

Why should this drug not be prescribed: If you suffer an allergic reaction to Fortovase or any of its components, you will not be able to use this drug.

Special warnings about this medication: Fortovase may increase blood sugar levels. If you have diabetes, be sure to let the doctor know. Your dosage of diabetes medication may need adjustment. Fortovase may aggravate liver problems and should be used with caution if you have such liver disorders as hepatitis or cirrhosis. It may also cause bleeding in people with hemophilia type A or B. Patients taking protease inhibitors such as Fortovase sometimes undergo a redistribution of body fat, gaining weight around the waist, developing a pad of fat on the upper back, and losing weight in the arms and legs. The long-term health effects of these changes are still unknown. This medication does not reduce the risk of transmission of HIV to others through sexual contact or blood contamination. Therefore, you should continue to avoid practices that could give HIV to others. Although the HIV drug Invirase contains the same active ingredient found in Fortovase, the two are not interchangeable. Fortovase is the preferred form of the drug. Invirase is recommended for use only in rare combinations with other HIV drugs.

Possible food and drug interactions when taking this medication: Protease inhibitors such as Fortovase tend to raise blood levels of the cholesterol drugs known as "statins," increasing the chance of dangerous side effects. Do not combine Fortovase with Mevacor or Zocor. Be cautious when combining it with Lipitor. If Fortovase is taken with certain other drugs, the effects of either could be increased, decreased, or altered. It is especially important to check with your doctor before combining Fortovase with the following: Carbamazepine (Tegretol) Certain migraine drugs, including D.H.E. 45 injection, Cafergot, Ergostat, and Migranal Nasal Spray Clarithromycin (Biaxin) Delavirdine (Rescriptor) Dexamethasone (Decadron) Indinavir (Crixivan) Ketoconazole (Nizoral) Midazolam (Versed) Nelfinavir (Viracept) Nevirapine (Viramune) Phenobarbital (Donnatal) Phenytoin (Dilantin) Rifabutin (Mycobutin) Rifampin (Rifadin) Ritonavir (Norvir) Sildenafil (Viagra) St. John's wort Triazolam (Halcion) Be sure to tell your doctor and pharmacist about all the medications (both prescription and over-the-counter) that you are presently taking. Alert them, too, whenever you stop taking a medication.

Special information if you are pregnant or breastfeeding: The effects of Fortovase during pregnancy have not been adequately studied. If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant, tell your doctor immediately. Do not breastfeed. HIV appears in breast milk and can be passed to a nursing infant.

Recommended dosage: ADULTS: The recommended dosage is 1200 milligrams (six 200-milligram capsules), taken 3 times a day with a meal or within 2 hours afterwards. Daily doses lower than 1200 milligrams 3 times a day are not recommended, since they will not have the same antiviral activity. You should also be taking Retrovir, Hivid, or another antiviral drug as directed. CHILDREN: The safety and effectiveness of Fortovase in children younger than 16 years of age have not been established.

Overdosage: There have been no reports of Fortovase poisoning. However, any medication taken in excess can have serious consequences. If you suspect an overdose, seek emergency medical treatment immediately.

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