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zidovudine (injection)

Pronunciation: zye DOE vyoo deen

Brand: Retrovir

What is the most important information I should know about zidovudine injection?

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Do not use this medication if you have ever had an allergic reaction to Retrovir or any medicine that contains zidovudine, including Combivir or Trizivir.

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Some people develop lactic acidosis while using zidovudine. Early symptoms may get worse over time and this condition can be fatal. Get emergency medical help if you have even mild symptoms such as: muscle pain or weakness, numb or cold feeling in your arms and legs, trouble breathing, stomach pain, nausea with vomiting, slow or uneven heart rate, dizziness, or feeling very weak or tired.

This medication can also cause severe or life-threatening effects on your liver. Call your doctor at once if you have any of these symptoms while using zidovudine: pain in your upper stomach, itching, loss of appetite, dark urine, clay-colored stools, or jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes).

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Zidovudine can lower blood cells that help your body fight infections and help your blood clot. Your blood may need to be tested often. Avoid being near people who are sick or have infections. Avoid activities that may increase your risk of bleeding injury. Tell your doctor at once if you develop signs of infection.

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Do not use Retrovir with any other medicine that contains zidovudine or stavudine, including: Combivir, Trizivir, or Zerit.

What is zidovudine injection?

Zidovudine is an antiviral medication that prevents human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) cells from multiplying in your body.

Zidovudine injection is used to treat HIV, which causes the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Zidovudine is also given during pregnancy to prevent an HIV-infected woman from passing the virus to her baby. Zidovudine is not a cure for HIV or AIDS.

Zidovudine may also be used for purposes not listed in this medication guide.

What should I discuss with my healthcare provider before using zidovudine injection?

Multum donot

Do not use this medication if you have ever had an allergic reaction to Retrovir or any medicine that contains zidovudine, including Combivir or Trizivir.

Multum donot

Do not use Retrovir with any other medicine that contains zidovudine or stavudine, including: Combivir, Trizivir, or Zerit.

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Some people develop a life-threatening condition called lactic acidosis while using zidovudine. You may be more likely to develop lactic acidosis if you are overweight or have liver disease, if you are a woman, or if you have taken HIV or AIDS medications for a long time. Talk with your doctor about your individual risk.

Zidovudine can also cause severe or life-threatening effects on your liver. Tell your doctor if you have liver disease, especially hepatitis C.

To make sure you can safely use zidovudine, tell your doctor if you have any of these other conditions:

  • kidney disease;
  • anemia (low red blood cell count);
  • an active infection;
  • bone marrow suppression; or
  • if you have used an HIV medication in the past, such as abacavir (Ziagen), didanosine (Videx), emtricitabine (Atripla, Complera, Emtriva, Truvada), lamivudine (Combivir, Epivir, Epzicom, Trizivir), stavudine (Zerit), tenofovir (Viread), or zidovudine (Retrovir).
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FDA pregnancy category C. It is not known whether zidovudine will harm an unborn baby. HIV can be passed to your baby if you are not properly treated during pregnancy. Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant during treatment. Take all of your HIV medicines as directed to control your infection.

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You should not breast-feed while you are using zidovudine. Women with HIV or AIDS should not breast-feed a baby. Even if your baby is born without HIV, the virus may be passed to the baby in your breast milk.

How should I use zidovudine injection?

Use exactly as prescribed by your doctor. Do not use in larger or smaller amounts or for longer than recommended. Follow the directions on your prescription label.

Zidovudine is injected into a vein through an IV. You may be shown how to use an IV at home. Do not self-inject this medicine if you do not fully understand how to give the injection and properly dispose of used needles, IV tubing, and other items used to inject the medicine.

Zidovudine must be given slowly, and the IV infusion can take up to 1 hour to complete. Zidovudine is usually given several times per day until you are able to take the medication orally (by mouth). Follow your doctor's dosing instructions very carefully.

Zidovudine must be mixed with a liquid (diluent) before using it. If you are using the injections at home, be sure you understand how to properly mix and store the medicine.

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Mixed medicine must be used within 24 hours if you keep it at room temperature.

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You may also store the mixed medication in a refrigerator, but you must use it within 48 hours.

Use a disposable needle only once. Throw away used needles in a puncture-proof container (ask your pharmacist where you can get one and how to dispose of it). Keep this container out of the reach of children and pets.

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Zidovudine can lower blood cells that help your body fight infections and help your blood clot. This can make it easier for you to bleed from an injury or get sick from being around others who are ill. Your blood may need to be tested often. Visit your doctor regularly.

HIV/AIDS is usually treated with a combination of drugs. Use all medications as directed by your doctor. Read the medication guide or patient instructions provided with each medication. Do not change your doses or medication schedule without your doctor's advice. Every person with HIV or AIDS should remain under the care of a doctor.

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Store unopened vials of zidovudine at room temperature away from moisture, heat, and light.

What happens if I miss a dose?

Use the missed dose as soon as you remember. Skip the missed dose if it is almost time for your next scheduled dose. Do not use extra medicine to make up the missed dose.

What happens if I overdose?

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Seek emergency medical attention or call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222.

Overdose symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, drowsiness, headache, or weakness.

What should I avoid while using zidovudine injection?

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Avoid drinking alcohol. It may increase your risk of liver damage.

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Using this medication will not prevent you from passing HIV to other people. Do not have unprotected sex or share razors or toothbrushes. Talk with your doctor about safe ways to prevent HIV transmission during sex. Sharing drug or medicine needles is never safe, even for a healthy person.

What are the possible side effects of zidovudine injection?

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Get emergency medical help if you have any of these signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficult breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

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This medication may cause lactic acidosis (a build-up of lactic acid in the body, which can be fatal). Lactic acidosis can start slowly and get worse over time. Get emergency medical help if you have even mild symptoms of lactic acidosis, such as: muscle pain or weakness, numb or cold feeling in your arms and legs, trouble breathing, stomach pain, nausea with vomiting, fast or uneven heart rate, dizziness, or feeling very weak or tired.

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Stop using zidovudine and call your doctor at once if you have any of these other serious side effects:

  • severe muscle pain;
  • signs of a new infection such as fever, chills, body aches, flu symptoms, sores in your mouth and throat;
  • pale skin, feeling light-headed, rapid heart rate, trouble concentrating;
  • easy bruising, unusual bleeding (nose, mouth, vagina, or rectum), purple or red pinpoint spots under your skin;
  • increased sweating, tremors in your hands, anxiety, feeling irritable, sleep problems (insomnia);
  • diarrhea, unexplained weight loss, menstrual changes, impotence, loss of interest in sex;
  • swelling in your neck or throat (goiter);
  • problems with walking, breathing, speech, swallowing, or eye movement;
  • weakness or prickly feeling in your fingers or toes;
  • severe lower back pain, loss of bladder or bowel control;
  • liver problems--upper stomach pain, itching, loss of appetite, dark urine, clay-colored stools, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes);
  • pancreatitis--severe pain in your upper stomach spreading to your back, nausea and vomiting, fast heart rate; or
  • severe skin reaction -- fever, sore throat, swelling in your face or tongue, burning in your eyes, skin pain, followed by a red or purple skin rash that spreads (especially in the face or upper body) and causes blistering and peeling.

Less serious side effects may include:

  • sleep problems (insomnia);
  • mild nausea, constipation;
  • joint pain;
  • headache; or
  • changes in the shape or location of body fat (especially in your arms, legs, face, neck, breasts, and trunk).

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

What other drugs will affect zidovudine injection?

Tell your doctor about all other medicines you use, especially:

  • doxorubicin (Adriamycin);
  • ganciclovir (Cytovene);
  • interferon alfa (Alferon, Intron, Rebetron);
  • phenytoin (Dilantin);
  • ribavirin (Rebetol, Ribasphere, Copegus Virazole); or
  • drugs that weaken your immune system, such as cancer medicine, steroids, and medicines to prevent rejection of an organ transplant.

This list is not complete and other drugs may interact with zidovudine. Tell your doctor about all medications you use. This includes prescription, over-the-counter, vitamin, and herbal products. Do not start a new medication without telling your doctor.

Where can I get more information?

Your pharmacist has information about zidovudine written for health professionals that you may read.


Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use this medication only for the indication prescribed.

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