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Cytovene Side Effects

Generic Name: ganciclovir

Note: This document contains side effect information about ganciclovir. Some of the dosage forms listed on this page may not apply to the brand name Cytovene.

For the Consumer

Applies to ganciclovir: capsule, powder for solution

Along with its needed effects, ganciclovir (the active ingredient contained in Cytovene) may cause some unwanted effects. Although not all of these side effects may occur, if they do occur they may need medical attention.

Medicines like ganciclovir can sometimes cause serious side effects such as blood problems; these are described below. Discuss these possible effects with your doctor.

Check with your doctor immediately if any of the following side effects occur while taking ganciclovir:

More commonFor oral capsules and injection into the vein only
  • Sore throat and fever
  • unusual bleeding or bruising
Less commonFor oral capsules and injection into the vein only
  • Mood or other mental changes
  • nervousness
  • pain at place of injection
  • skin rash
  • tremor
  • unusual tiredness and weakness
For injection into the eye only
  • Decreased vision or any change in vision

Some side effects of ganciclovir may occur that usually do not need medical attention. These side effects may go away during treatment as your body adjusts to the medicine. Also, your health care professional may be able to tell you about ways to prevent or reduce some of these side effects. Check with your health care professional if any of the following side effects continue or are bothersome or if you have any questions about them:

Less common
  • Abdominal or stomach pain
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea and vomiting

For Healthcare Professionals

Applies to ganciclovir: intravenous powder for injection, oral capsule


The most commonly reported adverse events have included pyrexia, diarrhea, leukopenia, nausea, anemia, asthenia, headache, cough, dyspnea, abdominal pain, decreased appetite, and increased creatinine.[Ref]


Very common (10% or more): Leukopenia (up to 41%), anemia (up to 26%), neutropenia (up to 26%)
Common (1% to 10%): Thrombocytopenia, lymphadenopathy
Uncommon (0.1% to 1%): Bone marrow failure
Frequency not reported: Pancytopenia
Postmarketing reports: Hemolytic anemia, agranulocytosis, granulocytopenia[Ref]

During clinical trials for the treatment of CMV retinitis, neutropenia with absolute neutrophil count (ANC) less than 500, between 500 and 749, and 750 to less than 1000 mcL, was reported in 25%, 14%, and 26% of patients, respectively. Anemia with hemoglobin less than 6.5, between 6.5 and less than 8, and 8 to less than 9.5 g/dL was reported in 5%, 16%, and 26% of patients, respectively.

During clinical trials among transplant recipients receiving this drug for CMV prevention, neutropenia with absolute neutrophil count (ANC) less than 500, between 500 and 1000 mcL, and total ANC of 1000 mcL or less was reported in 4%, 3% and 7% of heart transplant recipients and 12%, 29%, and 41% of bone marrow transplant recipients, respectively. Thrombocytopenia with platelet counts less than 25,000 and between 25,000 and 50,000 mcL were reported in 3% and 5% and 32% and 25% of heart and bone marrow recipients, respectively. Total platelet count of 50,000 mcL or less was reported in 8% and 57% of heart and bone marrow recipients, respectively.[Ref]


Very common (10% or more): Diarrhea (up to 44%), vomiting 13%
Common (1% to 10%): Nausea, abdominal pain, constipation, flatulence, esophageal candidiasis, dysphagia, dyspepsia
Uncommon (0.1% to 1%): Mouth ulceration, abdominal distention, pancreatitis
Frequency not reported: Gastrointestinal perforation, eructation, dry mouth, pancreatitis
Postmarketing reports: Intestinal ulcer[Ref]


Very common (10% or more): Elevated serum creatinine
Frequency not reported: Kidney failure, abnormal renal function, pleural effusion
Postmarketing reports: Renal tubular disorder, hemolytic uremic syndrome[Ref]

Elevated serum creatinine between greater than 1.5 and less than 2.5 mg/dL was reported in 14% of patients receiving 5 mg/kg/day for treatment of CMV retinitis; 2% experienced elevated serum creatinine of 2.5 mg/dL or greater.

Elevated serum creatinine between greater than 1.5 and less than 2.5 mg/dL was reported in 58%, 50%, and 43% of patients receiving this drug for CMV prevention in heart, and 2 bone marrow trials, respectively; 18%, 20%, and 0% experienced serum creatinine levels of 2.5 mg/dL or higher.[Ref]


Frequency not reported: Urinary tract infection, urinary frequency, hematuria
Postmarketing reports: Testicular hypertrophy[Ref]


Frequency not reported: Hypersensitivity
Postmarketing reports: Anaphylactic reaction, allergic reaction[Ref]


Very common (10% or more): Retinal detachment (11%)
Common (1% to 10%): Eye hemorrhage, macular edema, vitreous floaters, eye pain
Frequency not reported: Visual impairment, vitreous disorders, eye pain, conjunctivitis
Postmarketing reports: Cataracts, dry eyes[Ref]

Retinal detachment has been observed both before and after initiation of therapy in patients with CMV retinitis; its relationship to therapy is unknown.[Ref]


Very common (10% or more): Tachycardia (16%), hypotension (11%)
Frequency not reported: Arrhythmias, chest pain, hypertension, phlebitis, vasodilation
Postmarketing reports: Cardiac arrest, conduction disorder, torsade de pointes, ventricular tachycardia, peripheral ischemia[Ref]

Cases of ventricular tachycardia associated with ganciclovir infusions in patients with AIDS have been reported, although it is known that HIV infection is associated with myocarditis, decreased left ventricular function, and in some cases, nonsustained ventricular tachycardia.[Ref]


Very common (10% or more): Hyperhidrosis (12%)
Common (1% to 10%): Pruritus, dermatitis, night sweats
Frequency not reported: Cellulitis, alopecia, dry skin, urticaria, rash, photosensitivity reaction
Postmarketing reports: Exfoliative dermatitis, Stevens-Johnson syndrome[Ref]


Common (1% to 10%): Increased alkaline phosphatase
Frequency not reported: Abnormal hepatic function tests, increased transaminases
Postmarketing reports: Cholelithiasis, cholestasis, hepatic failure, hepatitis[Ref]

Nervous system

Very common (10% or more): Headache (15%)
Common (1% to 10%): Peripheral neuropathy, tremor, dizziness, paresthesia, hypoesthesia, seizures, dysgeusia
Frequency not reported: Somnolence
Postmarketing reports: Dysesthesia, dysphasia, extrapyramidal disorder, facial paralysis, amnesia, anosmia, myelopathy, cerebrovascular accident, third cranial nerve paralysis, aphasia, encephalopathy, intracranial hypertension, facial palsy[Ref]


Postmarketing reports: Inappropriate antidiuretic hormone secretion, infertility[Ref]


Common (1% to 10%): Catheter infection, catheter sepsis, injection site inflammation,
other catheter related events
Frequency not reported: Injection site inflammation[Ref]


Very common (10% or more): Decreased appetite (14%), decreased blood magnesium (11%)
Common (1% to 10%): Decreased weight, anorexia
Frequency not reported: Hypocalcemia, hypokalemia, hyperglycemia
Postmarketing reports: Acidosis, hypercalcemia, hyponatremia, increased blood triglycerides[Ref]


Common (1% to 10%): Arthralgia, myalgia, back pain, muscle spasms
Frequency not reported: Leg cramps, myasthenia
Postmarketing reports: Arthritis, rhabdomyolysis[Ref]


Very common (10% or more): Cough (16%)
Common (1% to 10%): Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, sinus congestion, rhinitis, dyspnea
Frequency not reported: Upper respiratory infection
Postmarketing reports: Bronchospasm, pulmonary fibrosis[Ref]


Very common (10% or more): Pyrexia (up to 48%)
Common (1% to 10%): Chills
Uncommon (0.1% to 1%): Deafness
Frequency not reported: Tinnitus, ear pain, fatigue, pain, malaise, asthenia, multiple organ failure
Postmarketing reports: Congenital anomaly, loss of sense of smell[Ref]


Very common (10% or more): Sepsis (15%), infection (13%)
Common (1% to 10%): Mycobacterium avium complex
Frequency not reported: Candida infections, influenza
Postmarketing reports: Vasculitis[Ref]


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Some side effects of Cytovene may not be reported. Always consult your doctor or healthcare specialist for medical advice. You may also report side effects to the FDA.

Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure that the information provided is accurate, up-to-date and complete, but no guarantee is made to that effect. In addition, the drug information contained herein may be time sensitive and should not be utilized as a reference resource beyond the date hereof. This material does not endorse drugs, diagnose patients, or recommend therapy. This information is a reference resource designed as supplement to, and not a substitute for, the expertise, skill , knowledge, and judgement of healthcare practitioners in patient care. The absence of a warning for a given drug or combination thereof in no way should be construed to indicate safety, effectiveness, or appropriateness for any given patient. does not assume any responsibility for any aspect of healthcare administered with the aid of materials provided. 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 substances you are taking, check with your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist.