Zidovudine can cause severe side effects, such as liver damage, blood toxicities, and muscle disorders. If you experience any of the following symptoms, call your doctor immediately: unusual breathing, shortness of breath, unusual bleeding or bruising, unusual tiredness or weakness, pale skin, fever, chills, sore throat, fatigue, loss of appetite, upset stomach, vomiting, dark urine, yellowing of the skin, pale stools, muscle weakness, lack of strength, or muscle pain. Keep all appointments with your doctor and the laboratory. Your doctor will order certain lab tests to check your response to zidovudine.
About your treatment
Your doctor has ordered zidovudine, an antiviral agent, to help treat your infection. The drug will be added to an intravenous fluid that will drip through a needle or catheter placed in your vein for at least 60 minutes every 4 hours.
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. Using 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.
Your health care provider (doctor, nurse, or pharmacist) may measure the effectiveness and side effects of your treatment using laboratory tests and physical examinations. It is important to keep all appointments with your doctor and the laboratory. The length of treatment depends on how your infection and symptoms respond to the medication.
Before administering zidovudine,
- tell your doctor and pharmacist if you are allergic to zidovudine or any other drugs.
- tell your doctor and pharmacist what prescription and nonprescription medications you are taking, especially acetaminophen, acyclovir (Zovirax), aspirin, cancer chemotherapy, cimetidine (Tagamet), fluconazole (Diflucan), foscarnet (Foscavir), ganciclovir (Cytovene), indomethacin (Indocin), interferon, lorazepam (Ativan), oxazepam (Serax), probenecid (Benemid), valproic acid (Depakene, Depakote), and vitamins.
- tell your doctor if you have or have ever had liver or kidney disease, any disease or swelling of the muscles, anemia, a history of alcohol abuse, or bleeding or other blood problems.
- tell your doctor if you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breast-feeding. If you become pregnant while taking zidovudine, call your doctor.
- tell your doctor if you drink alcohol.
Administering your medication
Before you administer zidovudine, look at the solution closely. It should be clear and free of floating material. Gently squeeze the bag or observe the solution container to make sure there are no leaks. Do not use the solution if it is discolored, if it contains particles, or if the bag or container leaks. Use a new solution, but show the damaged one to your health care provider.
It is important that you use your medication exactly as directed. Do not stop your therapy on your own for any reason because your infection could worsen and result in hospitalization. Do not change your dosing schedule without talking to your health care provider. Your health care provider may tell you to stop your infusion if you have a mechanical problem (such as blockage in the tubing, needle, or catheter); if you have to stop an infusion, call your health care provider immediately so your therapy can continue.
Zidovudine may cause side effects. Tell your doctor if any of these symptoms are severe or do not go away:
- stomach pain
- diarrhea or loose stools
- sleepiness or difficulty sleeping
If you experience the following symptom, or any of those listed in the IMPORTANT WARNING section, call your doctor immediately:
If you experience a serious side effect, you or your doctor may send a report to the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program online (http://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch) or by phone (1-800-332-1088).
Storing your medication
- Your health care provider may give you a 2-day supply of zidovudine at a time. You will be told to store it in the refrigerator.
- Take your next dose from the refrigerator 1 hour before using it; place it in a clean, dry area to allow it to warm to room temperature.
Store your medication only as directed. Make sure you understand what you need to store your medication properly.
Keep your supplies in a clean, dry place when you are not using them, and keep all medications and supplies out of reach of children. Your health care provider will tell you how to throw away used needles, syringes, tubing, and containers to avoid accidental injury.
In case of emergency/overdose
In case of overdose, call your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222. If the victim has collapsed or is not breathing, call local emergency services at 911.
Signs of infection
If you are receiving zidovidine in your vein or under your skin, you need to know the symptoms of a catheter-related infection (an infection where the needle enters your vein or skin). If you experience any of these effects near your intravenous catheter, tell your health care provider as soon as possible:
- Retrovir® I.V. Infusion
- Azidothymidine Injection
- AZT Injection
- Compound S