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This medication is an antiviral used in combination with interferon to treat ongoing hepatitis C. Long-term hepatitis C infection causes liver swelling that can lead to serious liver conditions such as scarring, cancer, and organ failure. Ribavirin works by reducing the amount of hepatitis C virus in your body, which may help your liver recover. However, this drug is not a cure for hepatitis C infection, and it does not prevent the spread of Hepatitis C to others through sexual contact or blood contamination (e.g., sharing used needles).

OTHER USES: This section contains uses of this drug that are not listed in the approved professional labeling for the drug but that may be prescribed by your health care professional. Use this drug for a condition that is listed in this section only if it has been so prescribed by your health care professional.

This drug may also be used to treat severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

How to use REBETOL

Read the Medication Guide provided by your pharmacist before you start using ribavirin and each time you get a refill. If you have any questions regarding the information, consult your doctor or pharmacist.

Measure the dose out carefully with a medication spoon/cup. Take this medication by mouth as directed by your doctor, usually twice daily with food for 24 to 48 weeks.

The dosage and length of treatment is based on your age, weight, medical condition, and response to therapy.

Antiviral medications work best when the amount of medicine in your body is kept at a constant level. Therefore, take this drug at evenly spaced intervals. To help you remember, use it at the same times each day.

Drink plenty of water while being treated with this medication. Doing so will decrease the risk of serious side effects.

Nausea, diarrhea, stomach upset, headache, dizziness, blurred vision, trouble sleeping, flu-like symptoms (e.g., fever, chills, sore throat, muscle aches), cough, hair loss, low appetite, weight loss or gain, dry skin, and changes in taste/hearing may occur. If any of these effects persist or worsen, notify your doctor or pharmacist promptly.

Remember that your doctor has prescribed this medication because he or she has judged that the benefit to you is greater than the risk of side effects. Many people using this medication do not have serious side effects.

Tooth and gum problems may sometimes occur during ribavirin/interferon treatment. Dry mouth can worsen this side effect. Prevent dry mouth by drinking plenty of water or by using a saliva substitute. Brush your teeth well at least twice daily and see your dentist regularly. If you experience vomiting during treatment, rinse out your mouth afterwards to reduce tooth and gum problems.

Tell your doctor right away if you have any serious side effects, including: unusual tiredness/weakness, fast/pounding/irregular heartbeat, trouble breathing, mental/mood changes (e.g., severe depression, thoughts of suicide or hurting others), muscle/joint pain, vision changes, easy bruising/bleeding, dark urine, yellowing of eyes/skin.

Get medical help right away if you have any very serious side effects, including: chest pain, jaw/left arm pain, stomach/lower back pain, black/bloody stools.

A very serious allergic reaction to this drug is rare. However, get medical help right away if you notice any symptoms of a serious allergic reaction, including: rash, itching/swelling (especially of the face/tongue/throat), severe dizziness, trouble breathing.

This is not a complete list of possible side effects. If you notice other effects not listed above, contact your doctor or pharmacist.

In the US -

Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

In Canada - Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to Health Canada at 1-866-234-2345.

Before taking ribavirin, tell your doctor or pharmacist if you are allergic to it; or if you have any other allergies. This product may contain inactive ingredients, which can cause allergic reactions or other problems. Talk to your pharmacist for more details.

Before using this medication, tell your doctor or pharmacist your medical history, especially of: blood disorders (e.g., sickle cell anemia, low hemoglobin, thalassemia), kidney disease, other liver problems (e.g., autoimmune hepatitis), heart disease, high blood pressure, breathing problems, pancreas problems (e.g., pancreatitis), diabetes.

This drug may make you dizzy or cause blurred vision. Do not drive, use machinery, or do any activity that requires alertness or clear vision until you are sure you can perform such activities safely. Avoid alcoholic beverages.

Kidney function declines as you grow older. This medication is removed by the kidneys. Therefore, elderly people may be at greater risk for anemia while using this drug.

Children may be at greater risk for mental/mood changes, including severe depression or suicidal thoughts, while using this drug. Ribavirin/interferon treatment may also slow down a child's rate of growth. Normal weight gain and rate of growth usually return after treatment is completed but the final adult height may be lower than expected. Monitor your child's height and weight periodically during treatment.

Ribavirin must not be used during pregnancy. It is recommended that female patients or female partners of male patients take a pregnancy test before starting this medication. A pregnancy test should also be taken every month while using this medication and for 6 months after this medication is stopped. If you become pregnant or think you may be pregnant, tell your doctor right away. See also Warning section.

It is not known whether this drug passes into breast milk. Because of the potential risk to the infant, breast-feeding while using this medication is not recommended.

Drug interactions may change how your medications work or increase your risk for serious side effects. This document does not contain all possible drug interactions. Keep a list of all the products you use (including prescription/nonprescription drugs and herbal products) and share it with your doctor and pharmacist. Do not start, stop, or change the dosage of any medicines without your doctor's approval.

Some products that may interact with this drug include: antacids, certain anti-HIV drugs (e.g., NRTIs such as lamivudine, stavudine, zidovudine), didanosine.

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