Generic Name: zidovudine (oral) (zye DOE vyoo deen)
Brand Name: Retrovir
Medically reviewed on October 6, 2017
What is zidovudine?
Zidovudine is an antiviral medicine that prevents human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) from multiplying in your body.
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 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;
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 should I take zidovudine?
Follow all directions on your prescription label. Your doctor may occasionally change your dose. Do not use this medicine in larger or smaller amounts or for longer than recommended.
Zidovudine can be taken with or without food.
If a child is using this medicine, tell your doctor if the child has any changes in weight. Zidovudine doses are based on weight in children, and any changes may affect your child's dose.
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 at room temperature away from moisture and heat.
What happens if I miss a dose?
Take the missed dose as soon as you remember. Skip the missed dose if it is almost time for your next scheduled dose. Do not take 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 taking zidovudine?
Avoid drinking alcohol. It may increase your risk of liver damage or lactic acidosis.
Taking 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:
drugs that weaken the immune system such as cancer medicine, steroids, and medicines to prevent organ transplant rejection.
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.
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.
Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.
Copyright 1996-2018 Cerner Multum, Inc. Version: 12.01.
More about Retrovir (zidovudine)
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