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Nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs or 'nukes')

for Veterans and the Public

Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NRTIs or nukes)

The first group of antiretroviral drugs is the nucleoside reverse transcriptase (pronounced "trans-krip-tase") inhibitors (NRTIs).

NRTIs were the first type of drug available to treat HIV. They remain effective, powerful, and important medications for treating HIV when combined with other drugs. They are better known as nucleoside analogues or "nukes."

When the HIV virus enters a healthy cell, it attempts to make copies of itself. It does this by using an enzyme called reverse transcriptase. The NRTIs work because they block that enzyme. Without reverse transcriptase, HIV can't make new virus copies of itself.

The following is a list of the drugs in the NRTI class:

  • Emtriva® (emtricitabine)
  • Epivir® (3TC, lamivudine)
  • Retrovir® (AZT, zidovudine)
  • Videx-EC® (ddI, didanosine)
  • Viread® (tenofovir)
  • Zerit® (d4T, stavudine)
  • Ziagen® (abacavir)

Several of the NRTI drugs may be combined into one tablet to make it easier to take your medications. These drugs are known as fixed-dose combinations:

  • Combivir® (Retrovir + Epivir)
  • Epzicom® (Epivir + Ziagen)
  • Trizivir® (Retrovir + Epivir + Ziagen)
  • Truvada® (Viread + Emtriva)