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What are the most important things to know about zidovudine?
Zidovudine can cause serious, life-threatening side effects. These include severe skin rash and allergic reactions, a buildup of in the blood (), problems, muscle disease (), and blood disorders, such as a very low number of red blood cells (severe ) or lower than normal number of white blood cells ().
Contact your health care provider right away if you develop a rash while taking zidovudine. Stop taking zidovudine and get medical help right away if you develop a rash with any of the following symptoms:
- General ill feeling
- Extreme tiredness
- Muscle or joint aches
- Blistering or peeling skin
- Blisters or sores in your mouth
- Redness or swelling of the eyes ()
- Swelling of your face, lips, mouth, tongue, or throat
- Trouble breathing or swallowing
Contact your health care provider right away if you have any of the following symptoms that could be signs of lactic acidosis:
- Weakness or tiredness
- Unusual muscle pain
- Shortness of breath or fast breathing
- Stomach pain with nausea and vomiting
- Cold or blue hands and feet
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Fast or abnormal heartbeat
Contact your health care provider right away if you have any of the following symptoms that could be signs of liver problems:
- Yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes ()
- Dark-colored urine
- Light-colored bowel movements
- Loss of appetite for several days or longer
- Nausea or vomiting
- Pain, aching, or tenderness on the right side of your stomach/abdominal area
Zidovudine may cause myopathy, especially when used for a long time. Contact your health care provider if you develop tiredness, muscle pain, or weakness.
Zidovudine can cause blood disorders such as very low number of red blood cells (severe anemia) or lower than normal number of white blood cells (neutropenia). Keep all appointments to have your blood count checked while you're taking zidovudine.
Contact your health care provider right away if you have any of the following symptoms of severe anemia or neutropenia:
- Unusual bleeding or bruising
- Fever, chills, or other symptoms of
- Unusual tiredness or weakness
- Pale skin
Worsening of liver disease (sometimes resulting in death) has occurred in people with both HIV and (HCV) who were taking HIV medicines and with or without ribavirin. If you are using zidovudine as well as interferon with or without ribavirin and you experience side effects, tell your health care provider.
While using zidovudine, it is important to keep all of your appointments with your health care provider.
What is zidovudine?
- To treat HIV infection in adults, children, and infants. When zidovudine is used to treat HIV infection, the medicine is always used in combination with other HIV medicines.
- To prevent mother-to-child () of HIV. When used to prevent mother-to-child transmission, zidovudine is given to women with HIV during pregnancy and childbirth and to their infants after birth.
Although zidovudine is FDA-approved, it is no longer commonly used or recommended as an HIV treatment in adults and adolescents. The Guidelines for the Use of Antiretroviral Agents in Adults and Adolescents with HIV no longer contain detailed or updated information on the use of zidovudine. Please refer to the FDA drug labels (capsule, oral solution, injection [solution]; tablet) for additional information regarding the use of zidovudine in people with HIV. For more information on the use of zidovudine in children and infants with HIV, please refer to the Guidelines for the Use of Antiretroviral Agents in Pediatric HIV Infection.
For more information on the use of zidovudine to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV, please refer to the Recommendations for the Use of Antiretroviral Drugs During Pregnancy and Interventions to Reduce Perinatal HIV Transmission in the United States.
HIV medicines cannot cure HIV/AIDS, but taking HIV medicines every day helps people with HIV live longer, healthier lives. HIV medicines also reduce the risk of HIV transmission. If you are taking HIV medicines, do not cut down on, skip, or stop taking them unless your health care provider tells you to.
Zidovudine may also be used to treat some conditions associated with (HHV-8) infection in people with HIV. For more information, please refer to the HHV-8 section of the Guidelines for the Prevention and Treatment of Opportunistic Infections in Adults and Adolescents with HIV.
What should I tell my health care provider before using zidovudine?
Before using zidovudine, tell your health care provider:
- If you are allergic to zidovudine, latex, or any other medicines.
- If you have ever had or disease, including if you are on dialysis.
- If you have ever had any blood disorders, such as or .
- If you have ever had (muscle disease).
- If you have any other medical conditions.
- If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. Talk to your health care provider about the risks and benefits of using zidovudine during pregnancy. For more information on the use of zidovudine during pregnancy, please refer to the Recommendations for the Use of Antiretroviral Drugs During Pregnancy and Interventions to Reduce Perinatal HIV Transmission in the United States.
- 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.
- If you are using -based birth control (such as pills, , or vaginal rings). For more information about using birth control and HIV medicines at the same time, view the HIVinfo HIV and Birth Control infographic.
- About other prescription and nonprescription medicines, vitamins, nutritional supplements, and herbal products you are taking or plan to take. Zidovudine may affect the way other medicines or products work, and other medicines or products may affect how zidovudine works. Using zidovudine together with certain medicines or products may cause serious side effects.
How should I use zidovudine?
Zidovudine comes in the following forms and strengths:
- 300-mg tablets
- 100-mg capsules
- 10-mg/mL oral solution
- 200-mg/20-mL single-use vials of injectable solution
Use zidovudine according to your health care provider’s instructions. Do not miss a of zidovudine, and do not change your dose or stop using zidovudine without first talking with your health care provider.
Take zidovudine tablets, capsules, or oral solution by mouth with or without food.
If giving zidovudine oral solution to a newborn baby, make sure to use the correct-sized syringe to measure theaccurately.
Zidovudine injection is given by (IV) . Use zidovudine injection exactly as your health care provider has instructed. If you do not understand how to use zidovudine injection, ask your health care provider.
If you have taken or used too much zidovudine, contact your health care provider or local poison control center (1-800-222-1222 or online) right away, or go to the nearest hospital emergency room.
For more information on how to use zidovudine, see the FDA drug labels for zidovudine tablets and zidovudine capsules, oral solution, and injectable solution.
What should I do if I forget a dose?
If you miss a of zidovudine, take or inject the missed dose as soon as you remember it. But if it is almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and just take or inject your next dose at the regular time. Do not take or inject two doses at the same time to make up for a missed dose.
What side effects can zidovudine cause?
Zidovudine may cause side effects. Some side effects of zidovudine can be serious as noted above. Many side effects from HIV medicines, such as nausea or occasional dizziness, are manageable. See the HIVinfo fact sheet on HIV Medicines and Side Effects for more information.
Other possible side effects of zidovudine include:
- Changes in your (called or IRIS). IRIS is a condition that sometimes occurs when the immune system begins to recover after treatment with an HIV medicine. As the immune system gets stronger, it may have an increased response to a previously hidden .
- Loss of body fat ().
Tell your health care provider if you have any side effect that bothers you or that does not go away.
These are not all the possible side effects of zidovudine. To learn more about possible side effects of zidovudine, read the drug labels or for zidovudine tablets and zidovudine capsules, oral solution, and injectable solution or talk to your health care provider or pharmacist.
You can report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088 (1-800-332-1088) or online.
How should zidovudine be stored?
- Store zidovudine tablets at room temperature, 68°F to 77°F (20°C to 25°C).
- Store zidovudine capsules and oral solution between 59°F and 77°F (15°C and 25°C). Protect zidovudine capsules from moisture.
- Store vials of zidovudine injection between 59°F and 77°F (15°C and 25°C) and protect them from light. Once zidovudine injection is diluted, use the solution within 8 hours if stored at 77°F (25°C) or within 24 hours if refrigerated at 36°F to 46°F (2°C to 8°C).
- Keep zidovudine in the container that it came in and keep the container tightly closed.
- Do not use zidovudine if the original seal over the container opening is broken or missing.
- Throw away zidovudine that is no longer needed or expired (out of date). Follow FDA guidelines on how to safely dispose of unused medicine.
- Keep zidovudine and all medicines out of reach of children.
Where can I find more information about zidovudine?
- For more information on the use of zidovudine in people with HIV, please refer to the Guidelines for the Use of Antiretroviral Agents in Adults and Adolescents with HIV and the Guidelines for the Use of Antiretroviral Agents in Pediatric HIV Infection.
- For more information on the use of zidovudine to prevent of HIV, please refer to the Recommendations for the Use of Antiretroviral Drugs During Pregnancy and Interventions to Reduce Perinatal HIV Transmission in the United States.
- Recommendations on the use of zidovudine to treat certain HHV-8 infections in people with HIV from the Guidelines for the Prevention and Treatment of Opportunistic Infections in Adults and Adolescents with HIV.
- This Patient Version drug summary is based on the following FDA label(s): Capsule, oral solution, injection (solution); Tablet. The Patient Counseling Information section of the labels includes information for people taking zidovudine.
- The American Hospital Formulary Service (AHFS) Patient Medication Information for zidovudine and zidovudine injection available from MedlinePlus.
- Zidovudine-related research studies, from ClinicalTrials.gov. (The ClinicalTrials.gov search can be modified so that you can get results that better match your interests.)
- A list of FDA-approved HIV medicines, from HIVinfo.
Retrovir brand product(s)
Main number: 877-844-8872
Patient assistance (ViiV Connect): 844-588-3288
For manufacturer information on a generic zidovudine product, please refer to the generic drug label or the manufacturer’s website.