What is ganciclovir?
Ganciclovir is an antiviral prescription medicine approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of cytomegalovirus retinitis (CMV retinitis) in adults who are immunocompromised, including 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, can be 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 HIVinfo What is an Opportunistic Infection? fact sheet.
How is ganciclovir used in people with HIV?
The Guidelines for the Prevention and Treatment of Opportunistic Infections in Adults and Adolescents with HIV and the Guidelines for the Prevention and Treatment of Opportunistic Infections in Children with and Exposed to HIV include recommendations on the uses of ganciclovir to:
- CMV diseases, including the following:
- CMV retinitis
- CMV colitis
- CMV esophagitis (infection and inflammation of the esophagus)
- CMV pneumonitis (infection and inflammation of the lungs)
- 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
- Certain human herpesvirus 8 (HHV-8) diseases, including primary effusion lymphoma and multicentric Castleman's disease
- CMV retinitis, colitis, and esophagitis from recurring
The recommended uses may not always be consistent with FDA-approved uses of ganciclovir. See the Adult and Pediatric Opportunistic Infection Guidelines for complete information on recommended uses of ganciclovir in adults and children with HIV. Ganciclovir may have other recommended uses not listed above.
What should I tell my health care provider before using ganciclovir?
Before using 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, including low blood cell counts or kidney problems.
- If you are receiving hemodialysis or radiation treatment.
- About any health conditions that may prevent you from receiving medicine by injection or infusion.
- If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. Ganciclovir should not be used during pregnancy. Talk to your health care provider about the risks of using ganciclovir during pregnancy. The Guidelines for the Prevention and Treatment of Opportunistic Infections in Adults and Adolescents with HIV may include other recommendations on the use of ganciclovir during pregnancy. Please refer to these guidelines for additional information.
- If you are breast/chestfeeding or plan to breast/chestfeed. For people with HIV in the United States, the Guideline recommends speaking with your health care provider to discuss options for feeding your baby. People with suppressed viral load have a less than 1% chance of transmitting HIV to their baby via their own milk.
- About other prescription and nonprescription medicines, vitamins, nutritional supplements, and herbal products you are taking or plan to take. 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 use ganciclovir?
Use ganciclovir according to your health care provider’s instructions. Your health care provider will tell you how much ganciclovir to use and when to use 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?
- 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?
- Recommendations on the HIV-related uses of ganciclovir, from the Guidelines for the Prevention and Treatment of Opportunistic Infections in Adults and Adolescents with HIV and the Guidelines for the Prevention and Treatment of Opportunistic Infections in Children with and Exposed to HIV.
- This Patient Version drug summary is based on the following FDA label(s): Injection (solution). The Patient Counseling Information section of the label includes information for people using ganciclovir.
- The American Hospital Formulary Service (AHFS) Patient Medication Information for ganciclovir injection available from MedlinePlus.
- Ganciclovir-related research studies, from ClinicalTrials.gov. (The ClinicalTrials.gov search can be modified so that you can get results that better match your interests. To learn more about the ClinicalTrials.gov search features, please see How to Search.)
Last Reviewed: January 19, 2023