Generic Name: Zidovudine (AZT)

  • What is Retrovir?

    Retrovir is prescribed for adults and children >6 weeks of age infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Retrovir slows down the progress of HIV. Combining Retrovir with other drugs may help slow the progression of the disease. Retrovir is also prescribed for the prevention of the transmission of HIV from an HIV-infected mother to her unborn baby or newborn.
  • What is the most important information I should know about Retrovir?

    The long-term effects of treatment with Retrovir are unknown. However, treatment with Retrovir may lead to blood diseases, including granulocytopenia (a severe blood disorder characterized by a sharp decrease of certain types of white blood cells called granulocytes) and severe anemia requiring blood transfusions. Retrovir may also cause an enlarged liver and the chemical imbalance known as lactic acidosis. This is especially true in women, individuals who are overweight, people who have been using Retrovir for an extended period, people with more advanced HIV, and people who start treatment later in the course of their infection.

    Retrovir is not a cure for HIV infections or AIDS. Those who are infected may continue to develop complications, including opportunistic infections (infections that develop when the immune system weakens). Frequent blood counts by your doctor are strongly advised. Notify your doctor immediately of any changes in your general health.

    Like other HIV drugs, Retrovir may cause a redistribution of body fat, resulting in added weight around the waist, a "buffalo hump" of fat on the upper back, breast enlargement, and wasting of the face, arms, and legs.

    The use of Retrovir has not been shown to reduce the risk of transmission of HIV to others through sexual contact, blood contamination, or to nursing infants.

  • Who should not take Retrovir?

    If you have ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction to Retrovir or any of its ingredients, you should not take Retrovir.
  • What should I tell my doctor before I take the first dose of Retrovir?

    Tell your doctor about all prescription, over-the-counter, and herbal medications you are taking before beginning treatment with Retrovir. Also, talk to your doctor about your complete medical history, especially if you have kidney disease, liver disease, hepatitis C, pancreatitis, or bone marrow suppression.
  • What is the usual dosage?

    The information below is based on the dosage guidelines your doctor uses. Depending on your condition and medical history, your doctor may prescribe a different regimen. Do not change the dosage or stop taking your medication without your doctor's approval.

    All dosages of Retrovir must be very closely monitored by your physician. The following dosages are general; your physician will tailor the dose to your specific condition.

    Tablets, Capsules, and Syrup

    Adults: The usual dose of Retrovir, in combination with other HIV drugs, is 600 milligrams (mg) a day, divided into smaller doses. If you are pregnant, the usual dosage is 100 mg in capsules, tablets, or syrup 5 times a day, beginning at 14 weeks of pregnancy, until you go into labor. You will then be given the drug intravenously until the baby is born. The baby will get Retrovir every 6 hours until it is 6 weeks old.

    Kidney impairment: In patients with end stage renal disease the recommended dose is 100 mg every 6 to 8 hours.

    Children 6 weeks to 12 years: The usual starting dose is determined by body weight. While the dose should not exceed 200 mg every 8 hours, it must still be individually determined. The drug is given along with other HIV medications.

  • How should I take Retrovir?

    Take Retrovir exactly as prescribed by your doctor. Do not share Retrovir with anyone and do not exceed your recommended dosage. Take it at even intervals around the clock as directed by your doctor.
  • What should I avoid while taking Retrovir?

    Avoid having unprotected sex or sharing needles, razors, or toothbrushes. Taking this medication will not keep you from passing HIV to other people.
  • What are possible food and drug interactions associated with Retrovir?

    If Retrovir is taken with certain other drugs, the effects of either could be increased, decreased, or altered. It is especially important to check with your doctor before combining Retrovir with the following: atovaquone, doxorubicin, fluconazole, ganciclovir, interferon, methadone, nelfinavir, phenytoin, probenecid, ribavirin, rifampin, ritonavir, stavudine, valproic acid

    Do not take Retrovir with other drugs that contain the same active ingredient (zidovudine).

  • What are the possible side effects of Retrovir?

    Side effects cannot be anticipated. If any develop or change in intensity, tell your doctor as soon as possible. Only your doctor can determine if it is safe for you to continue taking this drug.

    Side effects may include: cough, diarrhea, difficult or labored breathing, ear pain, discharge or swelling, enlarged liver, enlarged spleen, fever, general feeling of illness, headache, loss of appetite, mouth sores, nausea, nasal discharge or congestion, rash, swollen lymph nodes, vomiting

  • Can I receive Retrovir if I am pregnant or breastfeeding?

    The effects of Retrovir during pregnancy are under study. Use during pregnancy has been shown to protect the developing baby from contracting HIV. If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant, inform your doctor immediately. Since HIV can be passed on through breast milk to a nursing infant, do not breastfeed your baby.
  • What should I do if I miss a dose of Retrovir?

    Take it as soon as you remember. If it is almost time for your next dose, skip the one you missed and go back to your regular schedule. Do not take 2 doses at once.
  • How should I store Retrovir?

    Store Retrovir tablets, capsules, and syrup at room temperature. Keep capsules away from moisture.