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Non-Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors

Definition, Purpose, Precautions, Description, Risks

This type of drug interferes with an enzyme that is key to the replication (reproduction) of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The drug is designed to help suppress the growth of HIV, but does not eliminate it.


This medication is used to treat patients with the HIV virus and AIDS in combination with one or more other AIDS drugs. Combining NRTIs with older drugs improves their ability to lower the levels of HIV in the bloodstream, and strengthens the immune system.

HIV becomes rapidly resistant to this class of drugs when they are used alone. However, in combination with older drugs, they can interfere with the virus's ability to become resistant because they attack the virus on several fronts. As the virus tries to evade one drug, another attacks. This combination can lower the level of HIV in the blood to undetectable levels.


Patients should not discontinue this drug even if symptoms improve without consultation with a physician.


Nucleoside analogues, the first class of HIV drugs to be developed, worked by incorporating themselves into the virus's DNA, making the DNA incomplete and therefore unable to create new a virus. Non-nucleoside inhibitors work at the same stage as nucleoside analogues, but act in a completely different way, preventing the conversion of RNA to DNA.

This class of drugs includes nevirapine (Viramune) and delavirdine (Rescriptor). It may take several weeks or months before the full benefits are apparent.

Depending on the drug prescribed, doses may start with a lower amount and be increased after a short period of time.


A mild skin rash is common; a severe skin rash can be a life threatening reaction. Other possible side effects include fever, blistering skin, mouth sores, aching joints, eye inflammation, headache, nausea, and tiredness.

Because the drug passes into breast milk, breastfeeding mothers should avoid the drug, or not nurse until the treatment is completed.



Griffith, H. Winter. 1998 Edition: Complete Guide to Prescription and Nonprescription Drugs. New York: Berkeley Publishing Group, 1998.


Fox, Maggie. "Doctors grapple with huge pool of AIDS drugs." Reuters (4 Feb. 1998).

Rochell, Anne. "Hope and a Reality Check: Although a Cure is Still a Distant Dream, New AIDS Treatments Invite Optimism." Atlanta Journal and Constitution, 6 July 1996, D1.

Wilson, Billie Ann. "Understanding strategies for treating HIV." Medical Surgical Nursing 6 (1 Apr. 1997): 109-111.


National AIDS Treatment Advocacy Project. 580 Broadway, Ste. 403, New York, NY 10012. (888) 266-2827. <http://www.natap.org>.

Carol A. Turkington


Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)—The virus that causes AIDS.

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