Ribavirin

Sounds like 'rye-buh-VYE-rin'

Easy-to-read medicine information about ribavirin – what is it, how to use ribavirin safely and possible side effects.

Type of medicine Also called
  • Anti-viral (fights viruses)


  • Copegus®
  • Rebetol®
  • Pegasys RBV combination®

What is ribavirin?

  • Ribavirin belongs to a group of medicines, called antiviral agents, which are used to fight infections caused by viruses.
  • It works by slowing or stopping the activity of some viruses that cause infection.
  • Ribavirin is used to treat chronic hepatitis C infection, in combination with peginterferon alfa. It is not effective when used alone.
  • Ribavirin is available as tablets.

Dose

  • The dose of ribavirin will be different for different people, depending on your weight and the type of hepatitis C disease you have.  
  • The usual dose is between 800 milligrams and 1,200 milligrams per day (4 and 6 tablets per day). The dose is divided so that some tablets are taken in the morning and some in the evening.    
  • Always use your ribavirin exactly as your doctor has told you. The pharmacy label on your medicine will tell you how much ribavirin to take, how often to take it, and any special instructions.

How to take ribavirin

  • Swallow your ribavirin tablets whole with a full glass of water.
  • It is best to take your ribavirin tablets with or immediately after food.
  • Take your ribavirin doses at about the same times each day.
  • Limit or avoid drinking alcohol while you are taking ribavirin.
  • If you forget to take your dose, take it as soon as you remember that day. But, if it is nearly time for your next dose, just take the next dose at the right time. Do not take double the dose.

Special instructions

  • Before starting treatment with ribavirin you will need to complete a range of blood tests to determine whether it is safe for you to proceed with treatment. These tests will also be repeated at times during treatment, to monitor your response.
  • Tell your doctor if you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or breastfeeding. It is important that you do not get pregnant when on this medication. Effective birth control is essential while you are taking this medication.

Possible side effects

Like all medicines, ribavirin can cause unwanted side effects, although not everyone gets them. Often unwanted side effects improve as your body gets used to the new medicine.

Side effects What should I do?
  • Feeling tired
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Dizziness
  • Be careful when driving or using tools until you know how this medicine affects you
  • Tell your doctor if troublesome
  • Nausea (feeling sick)
  • Vomiting
  • Upset stomach
  • Take your ribavirin dose with food
  • Tell your doctor if troublesome
  • Signs of an allergic reaction such as skin rashes, itch, swelling of the lips, face, and mouth or difficulty breathing such as chest tightness, or wheezing.
  • Tell your doctor immediately or ring HealthLine 0800 611 116

Interactions

Ribavirin interacts with a number of important medications and herbal supplements so check with your doctor or pharmacist.

Learn more

The following links provide further information on ribavirin.

Pegasys RBV Medsafe Consumer Information Sheets
Are you ready for hepatitis C treatment? The Hepatitis Foundation of New Zealand

Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist. Last reviewed: 08 Feb 2016