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Pronounced: reh-troh-VEER
Generic name: Zidovudine

Why is this drug prescribed: Retrovir is prescribed for adults infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). HIV causes the immune system to break down so that it can no longer respond effectively to infection, leading to the fatal disease known as acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). Retrovir slows down the progress of HIV. Combining Retrovir with other drugs such as Epivir and Crixivan can help slow the progression. Retrovir is also prescribed for HIV-infected children over 3 months of age who have symptoms of HIV or who have no symptoms but, through testing, have shown evidence of impaired immunity. Retrovir taken during pregnancy often prevents transmission of HIV from mother to child. Signs and symptoms of HIV disease are significant weight loss, fever, diarrhea, infections, and problems with the nervous system.

Most important fact about this drug: The long-term effects of treatment with zidovudine are unknown. However, treatment with this drug may lead to blood diseases, including granulocytopenia (a severe blood disorder characterized by a sharp decrease of certain types of white blood cells called granulocytes) and severe anemia requiring blood transfusions. This is especially true in women, individuals who are overweight, people who have been using this medication for a long time, people with more advanced HIV, and those who start treatment later in the course of their infection. Also, because Retrovir is not a cure for HIV infections or AIDS, those who are infected may continue to develop complications, including opportunistic infections (exotic infections that develop when the immune system falters). Therefore, frequent blood counts by your doctor are strongly advised. Notify your doctor immediately of any changes in your general health.

How should you take this medication: Take this medication exactly as prescribed by your doctor. Do not share this medication with anyone and do not exceed your recommended dosage. Take it at even intervals every 4 hours around the clock (children every 6 hours). If you are pregnant, take the drug 5 times a day. --If you miss a dose... Take it as soon as you remember. If it is almost time for your next dose, skip the one you missed and go back to your regular schedule. Do not take 2 doses at once. --Storage instructions... Tablets, capsules, and syrup should be stored at room temperature; keep capsules away from moisture.

What side effects may occur: Side effects cannot be anticipated. If any develop or change in intensity, inform your doctor as soon as possible. Only your doctor can determine if it is safe for you to continue taking Retrovir. The frequency and severity of side effects associated with the use of Retrovir are greater in people whose infection is more advanced when treatment is started. Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish side effects from the underlying signs of HIV disease or the infections caused by HIV. More common side effects may include: Cough, diarrhea, difficult or labored breathing, ear pain, discharge or swelling, enlarged liver, enlarged spleen, fever, general feeling of illness, headache, loss of appetite, mouth sores, nausea, nasal discharge or congestion, rash, swollen lymph nodes, vomiting Less common side effects may include: Anemia, anxiety, back pain, blood disorders, blood in urine, breast enlargement, change in sense of taste, chest pain, confusion, chills, constipation, decreased mental sharpness, decreased reflexes, depression, difficulty sleeping, difficulty swallowing, difficulty urinating, dimness of vision, dizziness, drowsiness, exaggerated feeling of well-being, fatigue, flu-like symptoms, frequent urination, gas, hearing loss, heart failure, hepatitis, hives, indigestion, inflammation of the blood vessels, inflammation of the pancreas, inflammation of the sinuses or nose, itching, irritability, joint pain, light intolerance, loss of sensation, mouth discoloration, muscle pain, muscle spasm, nervousness, seizures, severe allergic reaction, skin eruptions and peeling, skin inflammation, stomach and intestinal cramps and pain, sudden drop in blood pressure, swelling from fluid in the tissues, swelling in the eye, sweating, swelling of the face and throat, tingling or pins and needles, tremor, weakness, weight loss, yellowing of the skin and whites of eyes, vertigo

Why should this drug not be prescribed: If you have ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction to Retrovir or any of its ingredients, you should not take this drug.

Special warnings about this medication: This drug has been studied for only a limited period of time. Long-term safety and effectiveness are not known, especially for people who are in a less advanced stage of AIDS or AIDS-related complex (the condition that precedes AIDS), and for those using the drug over a prolonged period of time. Retrovir can cause an enlarged liver and the chemical imbalance known as lactic acidosis. This serious and sometimes fatal side effect is more likely in women, people who are overweight, and those who have been taking drugs such as Retrovir for an extended period. Signs of lactic acidosis include fatigue, nausea, abdominal pain, and a feeling of unwellness. Contact your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms. Treatment with Retrovir may have to be discontinued. If you develop a blood disease, you may require a blood transfusion, and your doctor may reduce your dose or take you off the drug altogether. Make sure your doctor monitors your blood count on a regular basis. The use of Retrovir has not been shown to reduce the risk of transmission of HIV to others through sexual contact or blood contamination or to nursing infants. Retrovir should be used with extreme caution by people who have a bone marrow disease. Some people taking Retrovir develop a sensitization reaction, often signaled by a rash. If you notice a rash developing, notify your doctor. Contact your doctor immediately if you develop shortness of breath, muscle weakness, abdominal pain, or any unexpected problems while being treated with Retrovir. Because little data are available concerning the use of this drug in people with impaired kidney or liver function, check with your doctor before using Retrovir if you have either problem.

Possible food and drug interactions when taking this medication: If Retrovir is taken with certain other drugs, the effects of either could be increased, decreased, or altered. It is especially important to check with your doctor before combining Retrovir with the following: Atovaquone (Mepron) Doxorubicin (Adriamycin, a cancer drug) Fluconazole (Diflucan) Ganciclovir (Cytovene) Interferon (Intron A, Roferon-A) Methadone Nelfinavir (Viracept) Phenytoin (Dilantin, a seizure medication) Probenecid (Benemid, an antigout drug) Ribavirin (Virazole) Rifampin (Rifadin) Ritonavir (Norvir) Stavudine (Zerit) Valproic acid (Depakene, a seizure medication) Do not take Retrovir with Combivir or Trizivir, which contain the same active ingredient.

Special information if you are pregnant or breastfeeding: The effects of Retrovir during pregnancy are under study. Use during pregnancy has been shown to protect the developing baby from contracting HIV. If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant, inform your doctor immediately. Since HIV can be passed on through breast milk to a nursing infant, do not breastfeed your baby.

Recommended dosage: ADULTS: All dosages of Retrovir must be very closely monitored by your physician. The following dosages are general; your physician will tailor the dose to your specific condition. Tablets, Capsules, and Syrup The usual dose of Retrovir, in combination with other HIV drugs, is 600 milligrams a day, divided into smaller doses. If you are pregnant, the usual dosage is 100 milligrams in capsules, tablets, or syrup 5 times a day, beginning at 14 weeks of pregnancy, until you go into labor. You will then be given the drug intravenously until the baby is born. The baby will get Retrovir every 6 hours until it is 6 weeks old. CHILDREN: The usual starting dose for children 6 weeks to 12 years of age is determined by body size. While the dose should not exceed 200 milligrams every 8 hours, it must still be individually determined. The drug is given along with other HIV medications.

Overdosage: Any medication taken in excess can have serious consequences. If you suspect an overdose, seek emergency medical treatment immediately. Symptoms of Retrovir overdose may include: Fatigue, headache, nausea, vomiting

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