Drug information

Other Names:
Cytovene IV, ganciclovir sodium
Drug Class:
Opportunistic Infections and Coinfections
Registry Number:
82410-32-0 (ganciclovir; CAS); 107910-75-8 (ganciclovir sodium; CAS)
What is ganciclovir?What is ganciclovir?

What is ganciclovir?

Ganciclovir is a prescription medicine approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of cytomegalovirus retinitis (CMV retinitis) in individuals with AIDS. Ganciclovir is also FDA-approved for the prevention of CMV disease in recipients of organ transplants who are at risk for CMV diseases.

CMV diseases, including CMV retinitis, are opportunistic infections (OIs) of HIV. An OI is an infection that occurs more frequently or is more severe in people with weakened immune systems—such as people with HIV—than in people with healthy immune systems. To learn more about OIs, read the ClinicalInfo What is an Opportunistic Infection? fact sheet.

How is ganciclovir used in people with HIV?How is ganciclovir used in people with HIV?

How is ganciclovir used in people with HIV?

The Guidelines for the Prevention and Treatment of Opportunistic Infections in HIV-Infected Adults and Adolescents include recommendations on the uses of ganciclovir in people with HIV.

Using a medicine as indicated on the medicine label is called on-label use; using the medicine in a different way is called off-label use. Off-label use, for example, can include using a drug for a different disease or medical condition. Good medical practice and the best interests of a patient sometimes require that a medicine be used off-label.

The guidelines include recommendations on the following uses of ganciclovir:

On-label uses:

  • Treat CMV retinitis
  • Prevent CMV disease in recipients of organ transplants who are at risk for CMV diseases
Off-label uses:
  • Treat:
    • Other types of CMV disease, including CMV pneumonitis (infection and inflammation of the lungs) and CMV neurological disease (infection and disease of the nervous system)
    • Two varicella zoster virus (VZV) diseases called progressive outer retinal necrosis and acute retinal necrosis, both of which are infection and necrotizing inflammation (causing tissue death) of the eye's retina
    • Certain human herpesvirus 8 (HHV-8) diseases, including multicentric Castleman’s disease (a disease of the lymph nodes)
  • Prevent CMV retinitis from recurring

The above list may not include all of the HIV-related uses of ganciclovir recommended in the guidelines. Some recommended uses, such as uses in certain rare circumstances, may have been omitted.

What should I tell my health care provider before taking ganciclovir?What should I tell my health care provider before taking ganciclovir?

What should I tell my health care provider before taking ganciclovir?

Before taking ganciclovir, tell your health care provider:

  • If you are allergic to ganciclovir or any other medicines.
  • About any medical conditions you have or have had.
  • About any health conditions that may prevent you from receiving medicine by injection or infusion.
  • If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. Serious birth defects have been seen in the babies of animals treated with ganciclovir during pregnancy. Whether ganciclovir can harm a human baby has not been fully studied. Ganciclovir should not be used during pregnancy. To prevent pregnancy while taking ganciclovir, women should use the birth control of their choice and men should use condoms during treatment and for 90 days after ending treatment. Talk to your health care provider about possible risks with taking ganciclovir when pregnant.
  • If you are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. Do not breastfeed if you have HIV.
  • About other prescription and nonprescription medicines, vitamins, nutritional supplements, and herbal products you are taking or plan to take. Especially tell your doctor if you are taking zidovudine (brand name: Retrovir) or didanosine (brand names: Videx, Videx EC). Ganciclovir may affect the way other medicines or products work, and other medicines or products may affect how ganciclovir works. Ask your health care provider if there are interactions between ganciclovir and the other medicines you take.

Ask your health care provider about possible side effects from ganciclovir. Your health care provider will tell you what to do if you have side effects.

How should I take ganciclovir?How should I take ganciclovir?

How should I take ganciclovir?

Take ganciclovir according to your health care provider’s instructions. Your health care provider will tell you how much ganciclovir to take and when to take it. Before you start ganciclovir and each time you get a refill, read any printed information that comes with your medicine.

How should ganciclovir be stored?How should ganciclovir be stored?

How should ganciclovir be stored?

  • Ganciclovir is prepared for injection in many steps. Each step has different storage recommendations. Follow the instructions provided by your health care provider to prepare and store ganciclovir correctly. Instructions can also be found in the FDA label and patient information that comes with your medication.
  • Do not use ganciclovir if the original seal over the container opening is broken or missing.
  • Throw away ganciclovir that is no longer needed or expired (out of date). Follow FDA guidelines on how to safely dispose of unused medicine.
  • Keep ganciclovir and all medicines out of reach of children.
Where can I find more information about ganciclovir?Where can I find more information about ganciclovir?

Where can I find more information about ganciclovir?

More information about ganciclovir is available:

The above Patient Version drug summary is based on the following FDA label(s): Injection (powder, lyophilized, for solution).

Last Reviewed: December 21, 2018