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Hivid Side Effects

Generic name: zalcitabine

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

Applies to zalcitabine: oral tablet.


Oral route (Tablet)

The use of zalcitabine has been associated with significant clinical adverse reactions, some of which are potentially fatal. Zalcitabine can cause severe peripheral neuropathy and should be used with extreme caution in patients with preexisting neuropathy. Lactic acidosis and severe hepatomegaly with steatosis, including fatal cases, have also been reported. Rarely, zalcitabine may cause hepatic failure or pancreatitis; suspend therapy immediately in any patient who develops any symptoms suggestive of pancreatitis.

Serious side effects of Hivid

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

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

More common

  • Lab results that show problems with liver
  • tingling, burning, numbness, or pain in the hands, arms, feet, or legs

Less common

  • Fever
  • joint pain
  • muscle pain
  • nausea and vomiting
  • seizures
  • skin rash
  • stomach pain (severe)
  • ulcers in the mouth and throat


  • Discouragement, feeling sad or empty, irritability, lack of appetite, loss of interest or pleasure, tiredness, trouble concentrating, trouble sleeping
  • fever and sore throat
  • yellow eyes or skin

Other side effects of Hivid

Some side effects of zalcitabine 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

  • Constipation
  • diarrhea
  • headache
  • hives or welts
  • itching skin
  • swelling or inflammation of the mouth

For Healthcare Professionals

Applies to zalcitabine: oral tablet.


The adverse effects of zalcitabine (the active ingredient contained in Hivid) are sometimes difficult to distinguish from the symptomatology observed during the clinical course of AIDS, as well as from the possible adverse effects of other drugs used in the treatment of HIV infection. Many of the side effects associated with nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor therapy (myopathy, pancreatitis, liver failure, lactic acidosis, etc.) are attributable to their direct toxic effect on mitochondria which causes decreased mitochondrial energy-generating capacity. Patients with reduced renal function may have an increased risk of toxicity due to decreased clearance.[Ref]

Nervous system

Nervous system toxicity is the major dose-limiting adverse effect of zalcitabine (the active ingredient contained in Hivid) Peripheral neuropathy occurred in 28.3% of patients enrolled in a monotherapy study of zidovudine intolerant/failure patients who were administered zalcitabine or didanosine. Peripheral neuropathy presents as numbness,tingling, and burning dysesthesia in the distal extremities. Zalcitabine should be used with extreme caution in patients with preexisting neuropathy or if being treated with other neurotoxic drugs. Headache (2.1%), convulsions (1.3%), and dizziness have also been reported. Ototoxicity has been observed on rare occasions.[Ref]

Peripheral neuropathy has been reported in up to 50% of patients who receive greater than 0.03 mg/kg every 8 hours. Sensorimotor neuropathy generally presents at 8 to 12 weeks with numbness and burning dysesthesia in the soles of the feet. With continued treatment patients develop diminished light touch, temperature, and vibration sensation. The loss of ankle deep tendon reflexes may occur. Symptoms may worsen for up to 5 weeks after discontinuation and begin to remit over several weeks or months. The incidence is less with dosages of 0.01 mg/kg every 8 hours. Sensory neuropathy is common in patients with AIDS and it may be difficult to distinguish HIV sensory neuropathy from zalcitabine induced neuropathy.

Bilateral sensorineural hearing loss and tinnitus have been reported.[Ref]


Patients with a history of pancreatitis, taking other pancreatoxic drugs, or with known risk factors for the development of pancreatitis should be monitored closely while on zalcitabine (the active ingredient contained in Hivid) Exacerbation of pancreatitis occurs rarely with zalcitabine therapy, however, patients with a history of pancreatitis are at a greater risk. Of 528 zalcitabine treated patients enrolled in an expanded-access study who had a history of prior pancreatitis or increased amylase, 5.3% developed pancreatitis and an additional 4.4% developed asymptomatic elevated serum amylase.

Treatment with zalcitabine should be stopped immediately if clinical signs/symptoms or abnormal laboratory values develop which are suggestive of pancreatitis. It should not be restarted until the patient's condition has improved. If clinical pancreatitis develops during zalcitabine administration the manufacture recommends permanently discontinuing the drug.[Ref]

Gastrointestinal adverse effects such as abdominal pain (3%), oral lesions/stomatitis (3%), vomiting/nausea (3.4%), and diarrhea/constipation (2.5%) have been reported from a zalcitabine monotherapy trial of zidovudine intolerant/failure HIV patients. Esophageal ulceration (1.6%) and pancreatitis (1.1%) have also been reported.[Ref]


Dermatologic side effects such as rash, pruritus, and urticaria have been observed in approximately 3% of patients enrolled in clinical trials. An acute dermatologic reaction has been associated with zalcitabine (the active ingredient contained in Hivid) in one study. This reaction most frequently appears as a maculopapular rash during the first 10 to 12 days of therapy.[Ref]

In a limited study of 20 patients treated with zalcitabine, an acute reaction generally characterized by a maculopapular rash occurred in 14 patients. Dosages given were 0.03 mg/kg every 8 hours or greater. Nine of these 14 patients also had mucocutaneous lesions, and seven had a systemic reaction which included fever, malaise, myalgias, and pruritus. Onset occurred after 9 to 12 days of treatment. Systemic symptoms generally resolve in 2 to 3 days and lesions in 4 to 10 days despite continued treatment with zalcitabine. However, other larger studies have not reported similarly high incidences of skin reactions.[Ref]


Hematologic adverse effects have occurred, although, substantially less often than with zidovudine. Thrombocytopenia (1.3%), leukopenia (13.1%), eosinophilia (2.5%), and neutropenia (16.9%) were reported in a monotherapy study of zidovudine intolerant/failure patients comparing zalcitabine (the active ingredient contained in Hivid) or didanosine therapy. Anemia and granulocytopenia have also been reported.[Ref]


Rare cases of hepatic failure and death have occurred and may be related to the use of zalcitabine (the active ingredient contained in Hivid) in patients with underlying Hepatitis B infection. The drug should be used with caution in patients with hepatomegaly, hepatitis, or other known risk factors for liver disease.[Ref]

Hepatic side effects have generally included elevation in liver function tests and exacerbation of preexisting hepatic dysfunction.[Ref]


Metabolic side effects have included hypertriglyceridemia and hyperlipidemia.[Ref]


Cardiovascular adverse effects are uncommon, however, cardiomyopathy and congestive heart failure in patients with AIDS have been associated with the use of nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors. Caution should be exercised in patients with baseline cardiomyopathy or a history of congestive heart failure if zalcitabine (the active ingredient contained in Hivid) is to be administered.[Ref]


Hypersensitivity reactions have included one case of an anaphylactoid reaction in a patient receiving zalcitabine (the active ingredient contained in Hivid) and zidovudine. Other cases of hypersensitivity reactions have been reported including anaphylactic reactions and urticaria without other signs of anaphylaxis. Erythema multiforme has also been reported.[Ref]


Other side effects have included fever and fatigue.[Ref]


Psychiatric adverse effects have occurred in less than 1% of patients enrolled in clinical trials. Depression, however, was experienced in 0.4% to 1.8% of patients administered zalcitabine (the active ingredient contained in Hivid) monotherapy or combination therapy.[Ref]


Musculoskeletal adverse effects are uncommon. However, painful and swollen joints were observed in approximately 0.4% to 1.0% of patients enrolled in clinical trials. Myalgia, arthralgia, and muscle weakness have also been reported.[Ref]


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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Some side effects may not be reported. You may report them to the FDA.