Why is this medication prescribed?
Zidovudine is used along with other medications to treat human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. Zidovudine is given to HIV-positive pregnant women to reduce the chance of passing the infection to the baby. Zidovudine is in a class of medications called nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs). It works by decreasing the amount of HIV in the blood. Although zidovudine does not cure HIV, it may decrease your chance of developing acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) and HIV-related illnesses such as serious infections or cancer. Taking these medications along with practicing safer sex and making other life-style changes may decrease the risk of transmitting (spreading) the HIV virus to other people.
How should this medicine be used?
Zidovudine comes as a capsule, tablet, and syrup to take by mouth. It is usually taken twice a day by adults and two to three times a day by infants and children. Infants 6 weeks of age and younger may take zidovudine every 6 hours. When zidovudine is taken by pregnant women, it may be taken 5 times a day. Follow the directions on your prescription label carefully, and ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain any part you do not understand. Take zidovudine exactly as directed. Do not take more or less of it or take it more often than prescribed by your doctor.
Your doctor may temporarily stop your treatment if you experience serious side effects.
Continue to take zidovudine even if you feel well. Do not stop taking zidovudine without talking to your doctor.
Other uses for this medicine
Zidovudine is also used along with other medications in certain situations to treat healthcare workers and other individuals exposed to HIV infection after accidental contact with HIV-contaminated blood, tissues, or other body fluids. Talk to your doctor about the possible risks of using this drug for your condition.
This medication is sometimes prescribed for other uses; ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.
What special precautions should I follow?
Before taking zidovudine,
- tell your doctor and pharmacist if you are allergic to zidovudine, any other medications, or any of the other ingredients in zidovudine products. Ask your pharmacist for a list of the ingredients.
- tell your doctor and pharmacist what other prescription and nonprescription medications, vitamins, nutritional supplements, you are taking or plan to take. Be sure to mention any of the following: chemotherapy medications for cancer, doxorubicin (Doxil), ganciclovir (Cytovene), interferon alfa, ribavirin (Copegus, Rebetol, Ribasphere), and stavudine (Zerit). Your doctor may need to change the doses of your medications or monitor you carefully for side effects.
- tell your doctor if you have or have ever had kidney disease.
- tell your doctor if you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breastfeeding. If you become pregnant while taking zidovudine, call your doctor. You should not breastfeed if you are infected with HIV or if you are taking zidovudine.
- you should be aware that your body fat may increase or move to different areas of your body, such as your upper back, neck (“buffalo hump”), breasts, and around your stomach. You may notice a loss of body fat from your face, legs, and arms.
- you should know that while you are taking medications to treat HIV infection, your immune system may get stronger and begin to fight other infections that were already in your body. This may cause you to develop symptoms of those infections. If you have new or worsening symptoms after starting treatment with zidovudine, be sure to tell your doctor.
What special dietary instructions should I follow?
Unless your doctor tells you otherwise, continue your normal diet.
What should I do if I forget a dose?
Skip the missed dose and continue your regular dosing schedule. Do not take a double dose to make up for a missed one.
What side effects can this medication cause?
Zidovudine may cause side effects. Tell your doctor if any of these symptoms are severe or do not go away:
- stomach pain or cramps
- diarrhea (especially in children)
- difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
If you experience the following symptom, or any of those listed in the IMPORTANT WARNING section, call your doctor immediately:
- blistering or peeling of the skin
- difficulty breathing or swallowing
- swelling of the eyes, face, tongue, lips, or throat