By Medically reviewed by hellodoktor

Generic Name: Retrovir Brand Name(s): Generics only. No brands available.


What is Retrovir® (zidovudine) used for?

Zidovudine is an antiviral. It works by blocking the reproduction of the HIV virus. Retrovir® is commonly used for treating HIV infection when used along with other medicines. It is also used to help prevent from passing the HIV virus to the fetus during pregnancy.

How should I take Retrovir® (zidovudine)?

Zidovudine comes as a capsule, tablet, and syrup to take by mouth. It is usually taken 2 – 3 times a day. In some cases, it may be taken five times a day. Zidovudine should be taken at least 30 minutes before or 1 hour after a meal. You should take it sitting up with plenty of water.

Take zidovudine exactly as directed. Do not take more or less of it or take it more often than prescribed by your doctor. Continue to take zidovudine even if you feel well. Do not stop taking zidovudine without talking to your doctor.

Follow the directions on your prescription label carefully, and ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain any part you do not understand.

How do I store Retrovir® (zidovudine)?

Retrovir® is best stored at room temperature away from direct light and moisture. To prevent drug damage, you should not store Retrovir® in the bathroom or the freezer. There may be different brands of Retrovir® that may have different storage needs. It is important to always check the product package for instructions on storage, or ask your pharmacist. For safety, you should keep all medicines away from children and pets.

You should not flush Retrovir® down the toilet or pour them into a drain unless instructed to do so. It is important to properly discard this product when it is expired or no longer needed. Consult your pharmacist for more details about how to safely discard your product.

Precautions & warnings

What should I know before using Retrovir® (zidovudine)?

Before using this drug, tell your doctor if:

  • You are allergic to zidovudine or any other drugs.
  • You are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breastfeeding. If you become pregnant while taking zidovudine, call your doctor.
  • You drink alcohol.

Zidovudine may decrease the number of a certain type of white blood cell in the blood and cause anemia and muscle disorders. When used alone or in combination with other antiviral medications, zidovudine can also cause serious damage to the liver and a blood condition called lactic acidosis.

Is it safe during pregnancy or breastfeeding?

There isn’t enough information about the safety of using Retrovir® during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Please always consult with your doctor to weigh the potential benefits and risks before taking Retrovir®.

Side effects

What side effects can occur from Retrovir® (zidovudine)?

Some side effects can occur when using this drug:

  • Constipation
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Tiredness
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness

Call your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Unusual bleeding or bruising
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Muscle weakness
  • Lack of strength
  • Muscle pain
  • Unusual tiredness or weakness
  • Pale skin
  • Severe allergic reactions (rash; hives; itching; difficulty breathing; tightness in the chest; swelling of the mouth, face, lips, or tongue);
  • Symptoms of infection (e.g., fever, chills, persistent cough or sore throat, decreased or painful urination)
  • Symptoms of lactic acidosis (e.g., fast breathing; fast or irregular heartbeat; severe or unusual nausea, drowsiness, or vomiting; shortness of breath; sluggishness; dizziness or light-headedness; feeling of being unusually cold)
  • Symptoms of liver problems (e.g., yellowing of the skin or eyes; dark urine; pale stools; severe or persistent loss of appetite, nausea, or stomach pain);
  • Symptoms of pancreatitis (e.g., severe stomach or back pain, with or without nausea or vomiting)

Not everyone experiences these side effects. There may be some side effects not listed above. If you have any concerns about a side-effect, please consult your doctor or pharmacist.


What drugs may interact with Retrovir® (zidovudine)?

Retrovir® may interact with other drugs that you are currently taking, which can change how your drug works or increase your risk for serious side effects. To avoid any potential drug interactions, you should keep a list of all the drugs you are using (including prescription drugs, nonprescription drugs and herbal products) and share it with your doctor and pharmacist. For your safety, do not start, stop, or change the dosage of any drugs without your doctor’s approval.

Products may interact with this drug, including:

·         Stavudine (d4T, Zerit)

·         Ribavirin (Copegus / Rebetol / Virazole)

·         Rifadin / Rimactane

·         Benuryl / Probecid

·         Phenytoin (Epanutin)

·         Atovaquone (Wellvone)

·         Ganciclovir (Cymevene)

·         Doxorubicin (Caelyx / Myocet)

·         TrimetrexateC

·         Otrimoxazole (Septrin)

·         Methadone (Methadose)

·         Aspirin

·         Cimetidine (Dyspamet / Tagamet)

·         Clofibrate

·         Codeine

·         Dapsone

·         Indometacin (Rimacid)

·         Isoprinosine

·         Ketoprofen (Orudis / Orovail)

·         Lorazepam

·         Morphine

·         Naproxen (Naprosyn / Synflex)

·         Amphotericin (Fungilin / Fungizone)

·         Flucytosine

·         Interferon alfa (Intron-A / Roferon-A / Viraferon)

·         Ribavirin (Copegus / Rebetol / Virazole)

·         Systemic pentamidine (Pentacarinat)

·         Vinblastine (Velbe)

·         Vincristine (Oncovin)

·         Acetaminophen

·         Acyclovir (Zovirax)

·         Aspirin

·         Cimetidine (Tagamet)

·         Fluconazole (Diflucan)

·         Oxazepam (Serax)

·         Probenecid (Benemid)

·         Valproic acid (Depakene, Depakote)

·         Vitamins

·         Indomethacin (Indocin)

·         Interferon

·         Lorazepam (Ativan)

·         Foscarnet (Foscavir)

Does food or alcohol interact with Retrovir® (zidovudine)?

Retrovir® may interact with food or alcohol by altering the way the drug works or increase the risk for serious side effects. Please discuss with your doctor or pharmacist any potential food or alcohol interactions before using this drug.

What health conditions may interact with Retrovir® (zidovudine)?

Retrovir® may interact with your health condition. This interaction may worsen your health condition or alter the way the drug works. It is important to always let your doctor and pharmacist know all the health conditions you currently have.

These health conditions are:

  • Liver or kidney disease
  • Any disease or swelling of the muscle
  • Anemia
  • A history of alcohol abuse
  • Bleeding or other blood problems


The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. You should ALWAYS consult with your doctor or pharmacist before using Retrovir® (zidovudine).

What is the dose of Retrovir® (zidovudine) for an adult?

HIV Infection

The oral dose is 300 mg orally every 12 hours or 200 mg orally every 8 hours.
Infusion dose is 1 mg/kg IV (infused over 1 hour) every 4 hours around the clock, for a total daily dose of 5 to 6 mg/kg.
Duration: Therapy should be continued for as long as the patient tolerates, or until the patient is switched to another anti Retrovir®.

Reduction of perinatal transmission of HIV

The maternal dose is 100 mg orally 5 times a day until start of labor; however, most authorities would also consider the standard oral dosages of 300 mg every 12 hours or 200 mg every 8 hours.
During labor and delivery: 2 mg/kg IV (infused over 1 hour) followed by a continuous IV infusion of 1 mg/kg/hour until clamping of the umbilical cord.
Therapy should begin at 14 to 34 weeks gestation. Neonates should also be treated for 6 weeks. Despite the use of this regimen, transmission to infants may still occur in some cases.

What is the dose of Retrovir® (zidovudine) for a child?

HIV Infection

4 weeks to less than 18 years

  • The oral dose for children 4 to less than 9 kg is 12 mg/kg orally twice a day or 8 mg/kg orally 3 times a day.
  • The oral dose for children 9 to less than 30 kg is9 mg/kg orally twice a day or 6 mg/kg orally 3 times a day.
  • The oral dose for children 30 kg or more is 300 mg orally twice a day or 200 mg orally 3 times a day.

Neonates and infants less than 6 weeks

  • The oral dose is 2 mg/kg orally every 6 hours.
  • Infusion dose is 1.5 mg/kg IV (infused over 30 minutes) every 6 hours.

Perinatal transmission of HIV

Neonates (less than 35 weeks gestation at birth)

  • The oral dose is 2 mg/kg orally every 12 hours.
  • Infusion dose is 1.5 mg/kg IV (infused over 30 minutes) every 12 hours.

Dosage frequency should increase to every 8 hours at 4 weeks of age in neonates less than 30 weeks gestation at birth and at 2 weeks of age in neonates 30 to less than 35 weeks gestation at birth.

Full-term neonates and infants less than 6 weeks (born at 35 weeks gestation or greater)

  • The oral dose is 4 mg/kg orally twice a day.
  •  Infusion dose is 1.5 mg/kg IV (infused over 30 minutes) every 6 hours.

Zidovudine should be started as soon after birth as possible, preferably within 6 to 12 hours of delivery, and should continue through 6 weeks of age. IV zidovudine may be administered to neonates unable to tolerate oral agents.

How is Retrovir® (zidovudine) available?

Retrovir® is available in the following dosage forms and strengths:

  • Tablets 300 mg
  • Capsules 100 mg, 250 mg
  • Syrup containing 50 mg / 5 ml
  • Infusion: Contains 10 mg zidovudine / ml water for injection. The solution is adjusted to pH 5.5 with hydrochloric acid or sodium hydroxide.

What should I do in case of an emergency or overdose?

In case of an emergency or an overdose, call your local emergency services or go to your nearest emergency room.

What should I do if I miss a dose?

If you miss a dose of Retrovir®, take it as soon as possible. However, if it is almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and take your regular dose as scheduled. Do not take a double dose.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: February 18, 2017 | Last Modified: September 13, 2019