Health Guide

Zidovudine (By mouth)

Zidovudine (zye-DOE-vue-deen)

Treats HIV infection. This medicine does not cure HIV or AIDS, but combinations of drugs may slow progress of the disease.

Brand Name(s):


There may be other brand names for this medicine.

When This Medicine Should Not Be Used:

This medicine is not right for everyone. Do not use it if you had an allergic reaction to zidovudine.

How to Use This Medicine:

Capsule, Liquid, Tablet

  • Your doctor will tell you how much medicine to use. Do not use more than directed.
  • Oral liquid: Measure the oral liquid medicine with a marked measuring spoon, oral syringe, or medicine cup.
  • Zidovudine is taken with other medicines to treat HIV infection. Take all other medicines your doctor has prescribed as part of your combination treatment.
  • Do not stop using this medicine without checking first with your doctor. If you stop the medicine even briefly, the virus may become harder to treat. Contact your doctor or pharmacist when your supply is low so you do not run out.
  • Missed dose: Take a dose as soon as you remember. If it is almost time for your next dose, wait until then and take a regular dose. Do not take extra medicine to make up for a missed dose.
  • Store the medicine in a closed container at room temperature, away from heat, moisture, and direct light. Do not freeze the oral liquid.

Drugs and Foods to Avoid:

Ask your doctor or pharmacist before using any other medicine, including over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products.

  • Some medicines can affect how zidovudine works. Tell your doctor if you are using dapsone, doxorubicin, fluconazole, flucytosine, ganciclovir, interferon alfa, pyrazinamide, ribavirin, stavudine, valproic acid, or medicine that weakens the immune system.

Warnings While Using This Medicine:

  • Tell your doctor if you are pregnant, or if you have kidney disease, liver disease (including hepatitis C), blood and bone marrow problems (including anemia), or muscle problems.
  • Do not breastfeed. You can spread HIV or AIDS to your baby through your breast milk.
  • This medicine may cause the following problems:
    • Severe muscle weakness when this medicine is used for a long time
    • Lactic acidosis (too much lactic acid in the blood)
    • Liver problems
  • This medicine may make you bleed, bruise, or get infections more easily. Take precautions to prevent illness and injury. Wash your hands often.
  • Your immune system may get stronger when you start taking HIV medicines. This could cause a hidden infection in your body to become active. Tell your doctor right away if you notice any changes in your health.
  • This medicine will not keep you from giving HIV to others. Always practice safe sex, even if your partner also has HIV. Do not share needles or other items that may have blood or body fluids on them.
  • Your doctor will do lab tests at regular visits to check on the effects of this medicine. Keep all appointments.
  • Keep all medicine out of the reach of children. Never share your medicine with anyone.

Possible Side Effects While Using This Medicine:

Call your doctor right away if you notice any of these side effects:

  • Allergic reaction: Itching or hives, swelling in your face or hands, swelling or tingling in your mouth or throat, chest tightness, trouble breathing
  • Dark urine or pale stools, loss of appetite, stomach pain, yellow skin or eyes
  • Decrease or loss of body fat, especially in the face, arms, legs, or buttocks
  • Extreme muscle weakness or tiredness, muscle or joint pain
  • Fever, chills, sore throat, cough, body aches
  • Numbness, tingling, or burning pain in your hands, arms, legs, or feet
  • Rapid or troubled breathing, lightheadedness, severe weakness, tiredness, confusion
  • Sudden and severe stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, sweating, fast heartbeat

If you notice these less serious side effects, talk with your doctor:

  • Headache
  • Mild stomach pain
  • Trouble sleeping

If you notice other side effects that you think are caused by this medicine, tell your doctor

Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088

Last Updated: 3/4/2018
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