Description and Brand Names

Drug information provided by: Micromedex

US Brand Name

  1. Retrovir


Zidovudine (also known as AZT) injection is used in combination with other anti-virus medicines in the treatment of the infection caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). HIV is the virus responsible for acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). Zidovudine injection is used to slow the progression of disease in patients infected with HIV who have advanced symptoms, early symptoms, or no symptoms at all. This medicine also is used to help prevent pregnant women who have HIV from passing the virus to their babies during pregnancy and at birth.

Zidovudine injection will not cure or prevent HIV infection or AIDS; however, it helps keep HIV from reproducing and appears to slow down the destruction of the immune system. This may help delay the development of problems usually related to AIDS or HIV disease. Zidovudine injection will not keep you from spreading HIV to other people. People who receive this medicine may continue to have the problems usually related to AIDS or HIV disease.

This medicine is available only with your doctor's prescription.

This product is available in the following dosage forms:

  • Solution

Before Using

In deciding to use a medicine, the risks of taking the medicine must be weighed against the good it will do. This is a decision you and your doctor will make. For this medicine, the following should be considered:


Tell your doctor if you have ever had any unusual or allergic reaction to this medicine or any other medicines. Also tell your health care professional if you have any other types of allergies, such as to foods, dyes, preservatives, or animals. For non-prescription products, read the label or package ingredients carefully.


Appropriate studies performed to date have not demonstrated pediatric-specific problems that would limit the usefulness of zidovudine injection in children.


Although appropriate studies on the relationship of age to the effects of zidovudine injection have not been performed in the geriatric population, no geriatric-specific problems have been documented to date. However, elderly patients are more likely to have age-related liver, kidney, or heart problems which may require caution and an adjustment of dosage in patients receiving zidovudine injection.


Information about this zidovudine-intravenous-route
Pregnancy Category Explanation
All Trimesters C Animal studies have shown an adverse effect and there are no adequate studies in pregnant women OR no animal studies have been conducted and there are no adequate studies in pregnant women.


There are no adequate studies in women for determining infant risk when using this medication during breastfeeding. Weigh the potential benefits against the potential risks before taking this medication while breastfeeding.

Drug Interactions

Although certain medicines should not be used together at all, in other cases two different medicines may be used together even if an interaction might occur. In these cases, your doctor may want to change the dose, or other precautions may be necessary. When you are receiving this medicine, it is especially important that your healthcare professional know if you are taking any of the medicines listed below. The following interactions have been selected on the basis of their potential significance and are not necessarily all-inclusive.

Using this medicine with any of the following medicines is usually not recommended, but may be required in some cases. If both medicines are prescribed together, your doctor may change the dose or how often you use one or both of the medicines.

  • Clarithromycin
  • Dapsone
  • Doxorubicin
  • Doxorubicin Hydrochloride Liposome
  • Flucytosine
  • Orlistat
  • Pyrazinamide
  • Pyrimethamine
  • Ribavirin
  • Stavudine
  • Vinblastine
  • Vincristine
  • Vincristine Sulfate Liposome

Using this medicine with any of the following medicines may cause an increased risk of certain side effects, but using both drugs may be the best treatment for you. If both medicines are prescribed together, your doctor may change the dose or how often you use one or both of the medicines.

  • Acetaminophen
  • Fluconazole
  • Interferon Beta-1a
  • Methadone
  • Nelfinavir
  • Probenecid
  • Rifabutin
  • Rifampin
  • Rifapentine
  • Tipranavir
  • Valproic Acid

Other Interactions

Certain medicines should not be used at or around the time of eating food or eating certain types of food since interactions may occur. Using alcohol or tobacco with certain medicines may also cause interactions to occur. Discuss with your healthcare professional the use of your medicine with food, alcohol, or tobacco.

Other Medical Problems

The presence of other medical problems may affect the use of this medicine. Make sure you tell your doctor if you have any other medical problems, especially:

  • Blood problems (e.g., anemia, neutropenia, or pancytopenia) or
  • Bone marrow problems or
  • Muscle disorder—Use with caution. May make these conditions worse.
  • Kidney disease or
  • Liver disease—Effects may be increased because of slow removal of zidovudine injection from the body.

Proper Use

A nurse or other trained health professional will give you this medicine. This medicine is given through a needle placed in one of your veins.

Your doctor may give you a few doses of this medicine until your condition improves, and then you may be switched to an oral medicine that works the same way. If you have any concerns about this, talk to your doctor.


It is very important that your doctor check you or your child's progress at regular visits to make sure that this medicine is working properly. Blood tests may be needed to check for unwanted effects.

Do not receive this medicine if you are also using any combination medicines that also contain zidovudine (e.g., Combivir® or Trizivir®). To do so may increase the amount of zidovudine in your body which may cause serious side effects. Also, do not take other medicines unless they have been discussed with your doctor. This includes prescription or nonprescription (over-the-counter [OTC]) medicines and herbal or vitamin supplements.

Zidovudine injection may cause blood problems. These problems may result in a greater chance of certain infections and slow healing. Therefore, you or your child should be careful when using regular toothbrushes, dental floss, and toothpicks not to damage your gums. Check with your medical doctor or dentist if you have any questions about proper oral hygiene (mouth care) during treatment.

Check with your doctor if you have muscle pain, tenderness, wasting, or unusual tiredness or weakness while you are receiving this medicine.

Two rare but serious reactions to this medicine are lactic acidosis (too much acid in the blood) and liver toxicity, which includes an enlarged liver. These are more common if you are female, very overweight (obese), or have been taking anti-HIV medicines for a long time. Call your doctor right away if you or your child have more than one of these symptoms: abdominal discomfort or cramping; dark urine; decreased appetite; diarrhea; general feeling of discomfort; light-colored stools; muscle cramping or pain; nausea; unusual tiredness or weakness; trouble breathing; vomiting; or yellow eyes or skin.

When you or your child start taking HIV medicines, your immune system may get stronger. If you have infections that are hidden in your body (e.g., pneumonia or tuberculosis), you may notice new symptoms when your body tries to fight them. If this occurs, tell your doctor right away.

You should not breastfeed if you have HIV or AIDS, because you may give the infection to your baby through your breast milk.

Zidovudine injection does not decrease the risk of transmitting the HIV infection to others through sexual contact or by contamination through blood. HIV may be spread to others through infected body fluids, including blood, vaginal fluid, or semen. If you are infected, it is best to avoid any sexual activity involving an exchange of body fluids with other people. If you do have sex, always wear (or have your partner wear) a condom (“rubber”). Only use condoms made of latex or polyurethane and use them every time you have contact with semen, vaginal secretions, or blood. Also, do not share needles with anyone or use dirty needles. If you have any questions about this, check with your doctor.

Side Effects

Along with its needed effects, a medicine may cause some unwanted effects. Although not all of these side effects may occur, if they do occur they may need medical attention.

Check with your doctor or nurse immediately if any of the following side effects occur:

More common

  1. Abdominal pain
  2. black, tarry stools
  3. chills
  4. cough
  5. feeling of fullness
  6. fever
  7. lower back or side pain
  8. painful or difficult urination
  9. pale skin
  10. right upper abdominal pain and fullness
  11. shortness of breath
  12. sore throat
  13. swelling or inflammation of the mouth
  14. swollen lymph nodes
  15. ulcers, sores, or white spots in the mouth
  16. unusual bleeding or bruising
  17. unusual tiredness or weakness
  18. wheezing

Less common

  1. Troubled breathing with exertion

Incidence not known

  1. Abdominal discomfort
  2. back, leg, or stomach pains
  3. bleeding gums
  4. blistering, peeling, or loosening of the skin
  5. bloating
  6. blood in the urine
  7. blurred vision or other change in vision
  8. bone pain
  9. burning, crawling, itching, numbness, prickling, "pins and needles", or tingling feelings
  10. burning, tingling, numbness or pain in the hands, arms, feet, or legs
  11. clay-colored stools
  12. constipation
  13. cough or hoarseness
  14. convulsions
  15. dark-colored urine
  16. decreased appetite
  17. decreased urine output
  18. diarrhea
  19. difficult or labored breathing
  20. difficulty in moving
  21. difficulty in swallowing
  22. dilated neck veins
  23. dizziness
  24. extreme fatigue
  25. fainting
  26. fast, irregular, or pounding heartbeat
  27. fast, shallow breathing
  28. general body swelling
  29. general feeling of discomfort or illness
  30. general tiredness and weakness
  31. headache
  32. high fever
  33. hives
  34. increased need to urinate
  35. indigestion
  36. irregular breathing
  37. irritation or soreness of the mouth
  38. joint or muscle pain
  39. lack of coordination
  40. large, hive-like swelling on the face, eyelids, lips, tongue, throat, hands, legs, feet, or sex organs
  41. light-colored stools
  42. loss of appetite
  43. muscle pain or cramping
  44. muscle spasm or stiffness
  45. muscular pain, tenderness, wasting, or weakness
  46. nausea or vomiting
  47. nosebleeds
  48. pain
  49. pains in the stomach, side, or abdomen, possibly radiating to the back
  50. passing urine more often
  51. puffiness or swelling of the eyelids or around the eyes, face, lips, or tongue
  52. red skin lesions, often with a purple center
  53. red, irritated eyes
  54. redness, soreness, or itching skin
  55. runny nose
  56. sensation of pins and needles
  57. shakiness in the legs, arms, hands, or feet
  58. shivering
  59. skin rash
  60. sleepiness
  61. sores, welting, or blisters
  62. stabbing pain
  63. sweating
  64. swollen joints
  65. swollen or painful glands
  66. tightness in the chest
  67. trembling or shaking of the hands or feet
  68. trouble sleeping
  69. unexplained bleeding or bruising
  70. unpleasant breath odor
  71. vomiting of blood
  72. weight gain
  73. yellowing of the eyes or skin

Some side effects may occur that usually do not need medical attention. These side effects may go away during treatment as your body adjusts to the medicine. Also, your health care professional may be able to tell you about ways to prevent or reduce some of these side effects. Check with your health care professional if any of the following side effects continue or are bothersome or if you have any questions about them:

More common

  1. Lack or loss of strength

Incidence not known

  1. Acid or sour stomach
  2. actions that are out of control
  3. belching
  4. bloated
  5. change in taste or bad, unusual, or unpleasant (after) taste
  6. changes in skin color
  7. difficulty seeing at night
  8. discouragement
  9. dizziness or lightheadedness
  10. excess air or gas in the stomach or intestines
  11. fear or nervousness
  12. feeling of constant movement of self or surroundings
  13. feeling sad or empty
  14. hearing loss
  15. heartburn
  16. impaired vision
  17. increased sensitivity of the eyes to sunlight
  18. irritability
  19. itching skin
  20. loss of interest or pleasure
  21. mood or mental changes
  22. pain or tenderness around the eyes and cheekbones
  23. passing gas
  24. redness of the skin
  25. sensation of spinning
  26. sleepiness or unusual drowsiness
  27. sleeplessness
  28. sneezing
  29. stuffy nose
  30. swelling of the breasts or breast soreness in both females and males
  31. talking, feeling, and acting with excitement
  32. trouble concentrating
  33. unable to sleep
  34. weight loss

Other side effects not listed may also occur in some patients. If you notice any other effects, check with your healthcare professional.

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