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What is zidovudine?

Zidovudine (also called Retrovir®) is used to treat infection caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). This medicine is one of a group called nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs). Zidovudine can slow down how soon you will see symptoms or slow the damage caused by HIV, but it cannot cure HIV infection. This medicine is available as a liquid, 300-mg tablets, and 100-mg capsules.

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Possible side effects

  • Headache
  • Unusual tired feeling
  • Low blood counts
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite

    These are the most common side effects, but there may be others. Please report all side effects to the doctor or nurse. In case of a severe side effect or reaction, call the doctor, nurse, or pharmacist.

Symptoms of an allergic reaction include: rash, hives, itching, chills, fever, headache, muscle ache, shortness of breath, coughing, tightness in the throat, swelling of the face or neck.

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

Find more information on side effects.

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Tips for patients and families

Be sure to discuss all questions and instructions with your doctor or pharmacist. 

  • Store zidovudine liquid, tablets, and capsules at room temperature.
  • Blood tests can find some side effects, such as low blood counts. It is very important that you come to the clinic regularly for blood tests.

Drug at Home:

  • This medicine is usually taken one (1) time in the morning and one (1) time at night.
  • Take zidovudine with or without food. Taking the medicine right after you have eaten a meal may help prevent upset stomach.