What is Retrovir (Zidovudine) Used For? Side Effetcs and Dosage

What is Retrovir (Zidovudine) Used For? Side Effetcs and Dosage

What is Retrovir (Zidovudine)?

Retrovir is an anti-HIV drug that is the brand name of zidovudine (ZDV), also called azidothymidine (AZT). The zidovudine drug class is nucleoside analogue, commonly called a nuke. The zidovudine manufacturer for the U.S. market is ViiV Healthcare, a global leader in the research and development of HIV medication. It was the first drug approved for the treatment of HIV in 1987.

What is AZT used for?

Retrovir is used for the treatment of HIV in combination with other anti-HIV drugs. Though it is not a cure, it can be used with other medications as part of antiretroviral therapy (ART).

Zidovudine controls and reduces the spread of new HIV-infected cells, thus improving the viral load in the blood. It is indicated for use in adults and children four weeks and older. It can also be used in pregnant women and their neonates to reduce the risk of spreading HIV to the baby.

How does Retrovir work?

Retrovir works by interfering with the enzyme called reverse transcriptase (RT). By inhibiting the activity of this enzyme, Zdovudine helps stop HIV cells from making copies, resulting in fewer viruses.

How to take it

Retrovir is taken with other anti-HIV drugs, typically protease inhibitors and/or non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (non-nukes). The drug is usually taken orally with a full glass of water, with or without food. Patients may also take the medication by injection if they are unable to take it orally.

Zidovudine is available in formulations of 100 mg capsules, 10 mg/ml solution for intravenous infusion, and 50 mg/5 ml syrup.

Retrovir has the potential to interact with certain drugs. As such, patients should always inform their doctor or pharmacist of what other medications they are taking. It should never be taken with d4T (Zerit, stavudine), and dosage may need to be adjusted if you are taking dapsone (Avlosulfon), ganciclovir (Cytovene), ribavirin (when treating hepatitis C), valganciclovir (Valcyte), or valproic acid (Depakene, Divalproex).

Zidovudine side effects

There are some common temporary side effects associated with Retrovir. If you experience severe side effects, stop taking the drug and call your doctor immediately.

Common side effects

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite

Severe side effects

  • Depression and anxiety
  • Easy bruising or bleeding
  • Change of color in skin or fingernails


For adults, the standard dose of Retrovir is 600mg per day taken twice daily as 300mg. For intravenous dosing, the recommendation is 1mg per kg infused at a constant rate over one hour, given every four hours.

Disclaimer: Please note that the contents of this article are for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. This article, and other AIDS and HIV Information articles on AIDS Drugs Online, are not written by AIDS Drugs Online or reviewed by its staff for medical validity. All views and opinions expressed by the third-party authors are not endorsed by AIDS Drugs Online or its staff. Always consult a medical professional for medical advice.


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