Generic Name: zidovudine (injection) (zye DOE vyoo deen)
Brand Name: Retrovir
What is zidovudine?
Zidovudine is used to treat HIV, the virus that can cause acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Zidovudine is also given during pregnancy to prevent an HIV-infected woman from passing the virus to her baby. Zidovudine is not a cure for HIV or AIDS.
Zidovudine is usually given by injection only if you are unable to take the medicine by mouth.
Zidovudine may also be used for purposes not listed in this medication guide.
This medicine may cause a serious condition called lactic acidosis. Get emergency medical help if you have even mild symptoms such as: muscle pain or weakness, numb or cold feeling in your arms and legs, trouble breathing, stomach pain, nausea with vomiting, irregular heart rate, dizziness, or feeling very weak or tired.
Zidovudine can lower blood cells that help your body fight infections and help circulate oxygen in your body. Zidovudine can also cause severe or life-threatening effects on your liver.
Call your doctor if you have symptoms such as: fever, flu symptoms, unusual tiredness, mouth sores, pale skin, cold hands and feet, upper stomach pain, dark urine, or jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes).
Before taking this medicine
Some people taking zidovudine develop a serious condition called lactic acidosis. This may be more likely in women, in people who are overweight or have liver disease, and in people who have taken HIV/AIDS medication for a long time. Talk with your doctor about your risk.
Zidovudine can also cause severe or life-threatening effects on your liver. Tell your doctor if you have liver disease, especially hepatitis C.
To make sure zidovudine is safe for you, tell your doctor if you have ever had:
bone marrow suppression;
a latex allergy;
bleeding or a blood cell disorder; or
if you drink large amounts of alcohol.
Zidovudine is not expected to harm an unborn baby. However, HIV can be passed to your baby if you are not properly treated during pregnancy. Take all of your HIV medicines as directed to control your infection.
If you are pregnant, your name may be listed on a pregnancy registry. This is to track the outcome of the pregnancy and to evaluate any effects of zidovudine on the baby.
Women with HIV or AIDS should not breast feed a baby. Even if your baby is born without HIV, the virus may be passed to the baby in your breast milk.
How is zidovudine given?
Follow all directions on your prescription label. Do not use this medicine in larger or smaller amounts or for longer than recommended.
Zidovudine is injected into a vein through an IV. You may be shown how to use an IV at home. Do not give yourself this medicine if you do not understand how to use the injection and properly dispose of needles, IV tubing, and other items used.
Zidovudine must be mixed with a liquid (diluent) before using it. If you are using the injections at home, be sure you understand how to properly mix and store the medicine.
Each single-use vial (bottle) of this medicine is for one use only. Throw away after one use, even if there is still some medicine left in it after preparing your dose.
Mixed medicine must be used within 24 hours if you keep it at room temperature.
You may also store the mixed medicine in a refrigerator, but you must use it within 48 hours.
Do not use zidovudine if it has changed colors or has particles in it. Call your pharmacist for new medication.
Retrovir must be given slowly, and the IV infusion can take up to 1 hour to complete. Zidovudine is usually given by injection only until you are able to take the medicine orally (by mouth). Follow your doctor's dosing instructions very carefully.
Zidovudine can lower blood cells that help your body fight infections and help circulate oxygen in your body. You may get an infection or feel more tired than usual. Your blood will need to be tested often.
HIV/AIDS is usually treated with a combination of drugs. Use all medications as directed by your doctor. Read the medication guide or patient instructions provided with each medication. Do not change your doses or medication schedule without your doctor's advice. Every person with HIV or AIDS should remain under the care of a doctor.
Store unopened vials of zidovudine at room temperature away from moisture, heat, and light.
Use a disposable needle and syringe only once. Follow any state or local laws about throwing away used needles and syringes. Use a puncture-proof "sharps" disposal container (ask your pharmacist where to get one and how to throw it away). Keep this container out of the reach of children and pets.
What happens if I miss a dose?
Use the missed dose as soon as you remember. Skip the missed dose if it is almost time for your next scheduled dose. Do not use extra medicine to make up the missed dose.
What happens if I overdose?
Seek emergency medical attention or call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222.
What should I avoid while using zidovudine?
Avoid drinking alcohol. It may increase your risk of liver damage or lactic acidosis.
Using this medicine will not prevent you from passing HIV to other people. Do not have unprotected sex or share razors or toothbrushes. Talk with your doctor about safe ways to prevent HIV transmission during sex. Sharing drug or medicine needles is never safe, even for a healthy person.
Zidovudine side effects
Get emergency medical help if you have signs of an allergic reaction (hives, difficult breathing, swelling in your face or throat) or a severe skin reaction (fever, sore throat, burning in your eyes, skin pain, red or purple skin rash that spreads and causes blistering and peeling).
Early symptoms of lactic acidosis may get worse over time and this condition can be fatal. Get emergency medical help if you have even mild symptoms: muscle pain or weakness, numb or cold feeling in your arms and legs, trouble breathing, stomach pain, nausea with vomiting, irregular heart rate, dizziness, or feeling very weak or tired.
Call your doctor at once if you have:
low white blood cell counts--fever, flu symptoms, swollen gums, painful mouth sores, pain when swallowing, skin sores, cough, trouble breathing;
low red blood cells (anemia)--pale skin, unusual tiredness, feeling light-headed or short of breath, cold hands and feet; or
liver problems--swelling around your midsection, upper stomach pain, unusual tiredness, loss of appetite, dark urine, clay-colored stools, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes).
Zidovudine may increase your risk of certain infections or autoimmune disorders by changing the way your immune system works. Symptoms may occur weeks or months after you start treatment with zidovudine. Tell your doctor if you have:
chest pain (especially when you breathe), dry cough, wheezing, feeling short of breath;
cold sores, sores on your genital or anal area;
rapid heart rate, feeling anxious or irritable, weakness or prickly feeling, problems with balance or eye movement;
trouble speaking or swallowing, severe lower back pain, loss of bladder or bowel control; or
swelling in your neck or throat (enlarged thyroid), menstrual changes, impotence, loss of interest in sex.
Common side effects may include:
fever, general ill feeling;
nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite; or
changes in the shape or location of body fat (especially in your arms, legs, face, neck, breasts, and waist).
This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.
See also: Side effects (in more detail)
What other drugs will affect zidovudine?
Tell your doctor about all your current medicines and any you start or stop using, especially:
This list is not complete. Other drugs may interact with zidovudine, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Not all possible interactions are listed in this medication guide.
More about Retrovir (zidovudine)
- Side Effects
- During Pregnancy or Breastfeeding
- Dosage Information
- Drug Images
- Drug Interactions
- Support Group
- Pricing & Coupons
- 0 Reviews – Add your own review/rating
- Generic Availability
- Drug class: nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs)
- Retrovir (Zidovudine Capsules and Tablets)
- Retrovir (Zidovudine Injection)
- Retrovir (Zidovudine Syrup)
- Retrovir (Advanced Reading)
- Retrovir Intravenous (Advanced Reading)
Related treatment guides
Where can I get more information?
- Your pharmacist can provide more information about Retrovir.
- Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use this medication only for the indication prescribed.
- Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure that the information provided by Cerner Multum, Inc. ('Multum') is accurate, up-to-date, and complete, but no guarantee is made to that effect. Drug information contained herein may be time sensitive. Multum information has been compiled for use by healthcare practitioners and consumers in the United States and therefore Multum does not warrant that uses outside of the United States are appropriate, unless specifically indicated otherwise. Multum's drug information does not endorse drugs, diagnose patients or recommend therapy. Multum's drug information is an informational resource designed to assist licensed healthcare practitioners in caring for their patients and/or to serve consumers viewing this service as a supplement to, and not a substitute for, the expertise, skill, knowledge and judgment of healthcare practitioners. The absence of a warning for a given drug or drug combination in no way should be construed to indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective or appropriate for any given patient. Multum does not assume any responsibility for any aspect of healthcare administered with the aid of information Multum provides. The information contained herein is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. If you have questions about the drugs you are taking, check with your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.
Copyright 1996-2012 Cerner Multum, Inc. Version: 6.01.
Date modified: February 01, 2018
Last reviewed: December 28, 2017