Nucleoside/Nucleotide Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NRTIs)

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List of Anti-HIV Meds Nucleoside/Nucleotide Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NRTIs)
What are they?

Experimental drugs are italicized, and approved drugs are in regular, non-italicized type.

Brand Name Generic Name Abbreviation Experimental Code Pharmaceutical Company
Atripla efavirenz* + tenofovir + emtricitabine EFV + TDF + FTC Bristol-Myers Squibb and Gilead Sciences
Combivir zidovudine + lamivudine AZT + 3TC   ViiV Healthcare
Complera rilpivirine* + tenofovir + emtricitabine RPV + TDF + FTC Janssen Therapeutics and Gilead Sciences
Emtriva emtricitabine FTC   Gilead Sciences
Epivir lamivudine 3TC ViiV Healthcare
Epzicom abacavir + lamivudine ABC + 3TC   ViiV Healthcare
Retrovir zidovudine AZT or ZDV   ViiV Healthcare
Trizivir abacavir + zidovudine + lamivudine ABC + AZT + 3TC   ViiV Healthcare
Truvada tenofovir DF + emtricitabine TDF + FTC   Gilead Sciences
Videx EC didanosine ddI BMY-40900 Bristol-Myers Squibb
Viread tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (DF) TDF or Bis(POC) PMPA   Gilead Sciences
Zerit stavudine d4T BMY-27857 Bristol-Myers Squibb
Ziagen abacavir ABC 1592U89 ViiV Healthcare
amdoxovir AMDX or DAPD   RFS Pharma
GS 7340 Gilead Sciences
* efavirenz is a non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NNRTI)


What are Nucleoside/Nucleotide Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NRTIs)?

When HIV infects a CD4 cell in a person's body, it copies its own genetic code into the cell's DNA. In this way, the cell is then "programmed" to create new copies of HIV. HIV's genetic material is in the form of RNA. In order for it to infect CD4 cells, it must first convert its RNA into DNA. HIV's reverse transcriptase enzyme is needed to perform this process.

NRTIs, sometimes called "nucleoside analogues" or "nukes," contain faulty versions of the building blocks (nucleotides) used by reverse transcriptase to convert RNA to DNA. When reverse transcriptase uses these faulty building blocks, the new DNA cannot be built correctly. In turn, HIV's genetic material cannot be incorporated into the healthy genetic material of the cell and prevents the cell from producing new virus.

While nucleotide analogues (Viread is the only nucleotide analogue approved at this time) are technically different than nucleoside analogues, they act very much the same way. In order for nucleoside analogues to work, they must undergo chemical changes (phosphorylation) to become active in the body. Nucleotide analogues bypass this step, given that they are already chemically activated.

To learn more on how HIV infects a CD4 cell and begins to create more viruses, and where each class of anti-HIV drugs blocks this process, click on the following lesson link:

HIV Life Cycle Lesson
The HIV Life Cycle (and the targets of each class of anti-HIV drugs)


Last Revised: January 31, 2012

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