Zidovudine (By injection)

Zidovudine (zye-DOE-vue-deen)

Treats HIV infection. Also used during childbirth to keep the mother from passing HIV to her baby. This medicine does not cure HIV or AIDS, but combinations of drugs may slow the progress of the disease.

Brand Name(s):


There may be other brand names for this medicine.

When This Medicine Should Not Be Used:

This medicine is not right for everyone. You should not receive it if you had an allergic reaction to zidovudine.

How to Use This Medicine:


  • Your doctor will prescribe your dose and schedule. This medicine is given through a needle placed in a vein. The medicine should be given slowly, so the needle will have to stay in place for at least an hour.
  • A nurse or other health provider will give you this medicine.
  • Missed dose: Call your doctor or pharmacist for instructions.

Drugs and Foods to Avoid:

Ask your doctor or pharmacist before using any other medicine, including over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products.

  • Some medicines can affect how zidovudine works. Tell your doctor if you are using dapsone, doxorubicin, flucytosine, ganciclovir, interferon alfa, phenytoin, probenecid, ribavirin, stavudine, valproic acid, vinblastine, vincristine, or medicine that weakens the immune system.

Warnings While Using This Medicine:

  • Tell your doctor if you are pregnant, or if you have liver disease (including hepatitis C), kidney disease, blood and bone marrow problems, muscle problems, or an allergy to latex.
  • Do not breastfeed. You can spread HIV or AIDS to your baby through your breast milk.
  • This medicine may cause the following problems:
    • Severe muscle weakness when this medicine is used for a long time
    • Lactic acidosis (too much lactic acid in the blood)
    • Liver problems
  • This medicine may make you bleed, bruise, or get infections more easily. Take precautions to prevent illness and injury. Wash your hands often.
  • Your immune system may get stronger when you start taking HIV medicines. This could cause a hidden infection in your body to become active. Tell your doctor right away if you notice any changes in your health.
  • This medicine will not keep you from giving HIV to others. Always practice safe sex, even if your partner also has HIV. Do not share needles or other items that may have blood or body fluids on them.
  • Your doctor will do lab tests at regular visits to check on the effects of this medicine. Keep all appointments.

Possible Side Effects While Using This Medicine:

Call your doctor right away if you notice any of these side effects:

  • Allergic reaction: Itching or hives, swelling in your face or hands, swelling or tingling in your mouth or throat, chest tightness, trouble breathing
  • Dark urine or pale stools, loss of appetite, stomach pain, yellow skin or eyes
  • Decrease or loss of body fat, especially in the face, arms, legs, or buttocks
  • Extreme muscle weakness or tiredness, muscle or joint pain
  • Fever, chills, cough, mouth sores, body aches
  • Rapid or troubled breathing, lightheadedness, severe weakness, tiredness, confusion
  • Seizures
  • Sudden and severe stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, sweating, fast heartbeat
  • Unusual bleeding, bruising, or weakness

If you notice these less serious side effects, talk with your doctor:

  • Changes in the color of your skin, fingernails, or toenails
  • Mild nausea, vomiting, constipation, stomach pain
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands, arms, legs, or feet

If you notice other side effects that you think are caused by this medicine, tell your doctor

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

Last Updated: 11/6/2020

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites.

All rights reserved

A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Firefox and chrome browser.