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Brand names:

Cytovene®, Zirgan®

Often used for:

Infections caused by cytomegalovirus

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About Ganciclovir

Ganciclovir is an antiviral medication. It works to control illness due to cytomegalovirus (CMV) in patients with a weakened immune system. Symptoms of CMV infection include fever, fatigue, and sore throat. Ganciclovir may also be used to treat a viral infection of the eye.

Patients receiving ganciclovir will have regular blood draws to check blood counts and monitor liver and kidney function.

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May be given as a liquid into a vein by IV

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May be given into the eye as eye drops

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Possible Side Effects

  • Low blood counts (may cause increased risk of infection, bleeding, anemia and/or fatigue)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Hives/Itching or rash
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Headache
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Change in the taste of food
  • Dry mouth
  • Mouth sores
  • Strange dreams
  • Hair loss
  • Dizziness
  • Sweating
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Tingling or numbness in the hands or feet 
  • Liver problems
  • Kidney problems
  • High blood pressure
  • Visual changes (seeing flashes of light)
  • Seizures
  • Eye irritation or blurry vision (when given into the eye)

Not all patients who take ganciclovir will experience these side effects. Common side effects are in bold, but there may be others. Please report all suspected side effects to your doctor or pharmacist.

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Possible Side Effects with Long-Term Use

  • Fertility problems
  • Cancer
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Tips for Families

Be sure to discuss these and other recommendations with your doctor or pharmacist.

  • While taking this medicine, it is important to drink plenty of fluids. Patients should follow the care team’s instructions for appropriate fluid intake.
  • Sexually active patients should take steps to prevent pregnancy during treatment and for 3 months after completion of treatment.
  • Patients should tell their doctor if they are pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Caregivers should follow instructions for safe handling and disposal of the medicine.

Ganciclovir at home:

  • This medicine may make you dizzy or drowsy. Do not drive or do anything that could be dangerous until you see how this medicine affects you.
  • Take medicine at the same time each day.
  • Store liquid ganciclovir (for IV use) in a refrigerator. An hour before use, remove the dose and place at room temperature before giving by IV. Wear gloves while handling and connecting the medicine device for infusion.
  • Eye drops:
    • Wash hands before and after using drops. Do not touch the end of the dropper to the eye, finger, or other surface. 
    • Tilt head back, and use your index finger to pull lower lid down to form a pouch. Gently squeeze the bottle to give the correct amount. Close the eye and apply light pressure to the inside corner for one minute.
    • Store at room temperature.
  • Give a missed dose as soon as possible. If it is near the time for the next dose, skip the dose. Do not give 2 doses at the same time.
  • Do not use the medicine past the expiration date.
  • Follow instructions for safe handling and disposal of the medicine and avoid contact with patient body fluids. Patient body fluids can contain the drug for 48 hours after it is given.