April 28, 2017
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"Two phase 3 sister studies assessing the efficacy and safety of the dapivirine vaginal ring for the prevention of HIV-1 will likely be among the most-watched clinical trial results presented here at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportu"...





Included as part of the PRECAUTIONS section.


Hematologic Toxicity/Bone Marrow Suppression

RETROVIR should be used with caution in patients who have bone marrow compromise evidenced by granulocyte count less than 1,000 cells per mm³ or hemoglobin less than 9.5 g per dL. Hematologic toxicities appear to be related to pretreatment bone marrow reserve and to dose and duration of therapy. In patients with advanced symptomatic HIV-1 disease, anemia and neutropenia were the most significant adverse events observed. In patients who experience hematologic toxicity, a reduction in hemoglobin may occur as early as 2 to 4 weeks, and neutropenia usually occurs after 6 to 8 weeks. There have been reports of pancytopenia associated with the use of RETROVIR, which was reversible in most instances after discontinuance of the drug. However, significant anemia, in many cases requiring dose adjustment, discontinuation of RETROVIR, and/or blood transfusions, has occurred during treatment with RETROVIR alone or in combination with other antiretrovirals.

Frequent blood counts are strongly recommended to detect severe anemia or neutropenia in patients with poor bone marrow reserve, particularly in patients with advanced HIV-1 disease who are treated with RETROVIR. For HIV-1-infected individuals and patients with asymptomatic or early HIV-1 disease, periodic blood counts are recommended. If anemia or neutropenia develops, dosage interruption may be needed [see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION].


The vial stoppers for RETROVIR injection contain natural rubber latex which may cause allergic reactions in latex-sensitive individuals.


Myopathy and myositis with pathological changes, similar to that produced by HIV-1 disease, have been associated with prolonged use of RETROVIR.

Lactic Acidosis And Severe Hepatomegaly with Steatosis

Lactic acidosis and severe hepatomegaly with steatosis, including fatal cases, have been reported with the use of nucleoside analogues, including zidovudine and other antiretrovirals. A majority of these cases have been in women. Obesity and prolonged exposure to antiretroviral nucleoside analogues may be risk factors. Caution should be exercised when administering RETROVIR to any patient with known risk factors for liver disease; however, cases have also been reported in patients with no known risk factors. Treatment with RETROVIR should be suspended in any patient who develops clinical or laboratory findings suggestive of lactic acidosis or pronounced hepatotoxicity (which may include hepatomegaly and steatosis even in the absence of marked transaminase elevations).

Use With Interferon- And Ribavirin-Based Regimens In HIV-1/HCV Co-infected Patients

In vitro studies have shown ribavirin can reduce the phosphorylation of pyrimidine nucleoside analogues such as zidovudine. Although no evidence of a pharmacokinetic or pharmacodynamic interaction (e.g., loss of HIV-1/HCV virologic suppression) was seen when ribavirin was coadministered with zidovudine in HIV-1/HCV co-infected subjects [see CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY], exacerbation of anemia due to ribavirin has been reported when zidovudine is part of the HIV regimen. Coadministration of ribavirin and zidovudine is not advised. Consideration should be given to replacing zidovudine in established combination HIV-1/HCV therapy, especially in patients with a known history of zidovudine-induced anemia.

Hepatic decompensation (some fatal) has occurred in HIV-1/HCV co-infected patients receiving combination antiretroviral therapy for HIV-1 and interferon alfa with or without ribavirin. Patients receiving interferon alfa with or without ribavirin and RETROVIR should be closely monitored for treatment-associated toxicities, especially hepatic decompensation, neutropenia, and anemia.

Discontinuation of RETROVIR should be considered as medically appropriate. Dose reduction or discontinuation of interferon alfa, ribavirin, or both should also be considered if worsening clinical toxicities are observed, including hepatic decompensation (e.g., Child-Pugh greater than 6). See the full prescribing information for interferon and ribavirin.

Immune Reconstitution Syndrome

Immune reconstitution syndrome has been reported in patients treated with combination antiretroviral therapy, including RETROVIR. During the initial phase of combination antiretroviral treatment, patients whose immune systems respond may develop an inflammatory response to indolent or residual opportunistic infections (such as Mycobacterium avium infection, cytomegalovirus, Pneumocystis jirovecii pneumonia [PCP], or tuberculosis), which may necessitate further evaluation and treatment.

Autoimmune disorders (such as Graves' disease, polymyositis, and Guillain-Barré syndrome) have also been reported to occur in the setting of immune reconstitution; however, the time to onset is more variable, and can occur many months after initiation of treatment.

Fat Redistribution

Redistribution/accumulation of body fat, including central obesity, dorsocervical fat enlargement (buffalo hump), peripheral wasting, facial wasting, breast enlargement, and “cushingoid appearance,” have been observed in patients receiving antiretroviral therapy. The mechanism and long-term consequences of these events are currently unknown. A causal relationship has not been established.

Nonclinical Toxicology

Carcinogenesis, Mutagenesis, Impairment Of Fertility


Zidovudine was administered orally at 3 dosage levels to separate groups of mice and rats (60 females and 60 males in each group). Initial single daily doses were 30, 60, and 120 mg per kg per day in mice and 80, 220, and 600 mg per kg per day in rats. The doses in mice were reduced to 20, 30, and 40 mg per kg per day after Day 90 because of treatment-related anemia, whereas in rats only the high dose was reduced to 450 mg per kg per day on Day 91 and then to 300 mg per kg per day on Day 279.

In mice, 7 late-appearing (after 19 months) vaginal neoplasms (5 non-metastasizing squamous cell carcinomas, 1 squamous cell papilloma, and 1 squamous polyp) occurred in animals given the highest dose. One late-appearing squamous cell papilloma occurred in the vagina of a middle-dose animal. No vaginal tumors were found at the lowest dose.

In rats, 2 late-appearing (after 20 months), non-metastasizing vaginal squamous cell carcinomas occurred in animals given the highest dose. No vaginal tumors occurred at the low or middle dose in rats. No other drug-related tumors were observed in either sex of either species.

At doses that produced tumors in mice and rats, the estimated drug exposure (as measured by AUC) was approximately 3 times (mouse) and 24 times (rat) the estimated human exposure at the recommended therapeutic dose of 100 mg every 4 hours.

It is not known how predictive the results of rodent carcinogenicity studies may be for humans.

Two transplacental carcinogenicity studies were conducted in mice. One study administered zidovudine at doses of 20 mg per kg per day or 40 mg per kg per day from gestation Day 10 through parturition and lactation with dosing continuing in offspring for 24 months postnatally. The doses of zidovudine administered in this study produced zidovudine exposures approximately 3 times the estimated human exposure at recommended doses. After 24 months, an increase in incidence of vaginal tumors was noted with no increase in tumors in the liver or lung or any other organ in either gender. These findings are consistent with results of the standard oral carcinogenicity study in mice, as described earlier. A second study administered zidovudine at maximum tolerated doses of 12.5 mg per day or 25 mg per day (approximately 1,000 mg per kg nonpregnant body weight or approximately 450 mg per kg of term body weight) to pregnant mice from Days 12 through 18 of gestation. There was an increase in the number of tumors in the lung, liver, and female reproductive tracts in the offspring of mice receiving the higher dose level of zidovudine.


Zidovudine was mutagenic in a 5178Y/TK+/- mouse lymphoma assay, positive in an in vitro cell transformation assay, clastogenic in a cytogenetic assay using cultured human lymphocytes, and positive in mouse and rat micronucleus tests after repeated doses. It was negative in a cytogenetic study in rats given a single dose.

Impairment Of Fertility

Zidovudine, administered to male and female rats at doses up to 450 mg per kg per day, which is 7 times the recommended adult dose (300 mg twice daily) based on body surface area, had no effect on fertility based on conception rates.

Use In Specific Populations


Pregnancy Exposure Registry

There is a pregnancy exposure registry that monitors pregnancy outcomes in women exposed to RETROVIR during pregnancy. Healthcare providers are encouraged to register patients by calling the Antiretroviral Pregnancy Registry (APR) at 1-800-258-4263.

Risk Summary

Available data from the APR show no difference in the overall risk of birth defects for zidovudine compared with the background rate for birth defects of 2.7% in the Metropolitan Atlanta Congenital Defects Program (MACDP) reference population [see Data]. The APR uses the MACDP as the U.S. reference population for birth defects in the general population. The MACDP evaluates women and infants from a limited geographic area and does not include outcomes for births that occurred at less than 20 weeks gestation. The rate of miscarriage is not reported in the APR. The estimated background rate of miscarriage in clinically recognized pregnancies in the U.S. general population is 15% to 20%. The background risk for major birth defects and miscarriage for the indicated population is unknown.

In an animal reproduction study, administration of oral zidovudine to female rats prior to mating and throughout gestation resulted in embryotoxicity at doses that produced systemic exposure (AUC) approximately 33 times higher than exposure at the recommended clinical dose. However, no embryotoxicity was observed after oral administration of zidovudine to pregnant rats during organogenesis at doses that produced systemic exposure (AUC) approximately 117 times higher than exposures at the recommended clinical dose. Administration of oral zidovudine to pregnant rabbits during organogenesis resulted in embryotoxicity at doses that produced systemic exposure (AUC) approximately 108 times higher than exposure at the recommended clinical dose. However, no embryotoxicity was observed at doses that produced systemic exposure (AUC) approximately 23 times higher than exposures at the recommended clinical dose [see Data].


Human Data: Based on prospective reports to the APR of over 13,000 exposures to zidovudine during pregnancy resulting in live births (including over 4,000 exposed in the first trimester), there was no difference between the overall risk of birth defects for zidovudine (2.9%) compared with the background birth defect rate of 2.7% in a U.S. reference population of the MACDP. The prevalence of birth defects in live births was 3.2% (95% CI: 2.7% to 3.8%) following first trimester exposure to zidovudine-containing regimens.

A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial was conducted in HIV-1-infected pregnant women to determine the utility of RETROVIR for the prevention of maternal-fetal HIV-1-transmission [see Clinical Studies]. Zidovudine treatment during pregnancy reduced the rate of maternal-fetal HIV-1 transmission from 24.9% for infants born to placebo-treated mothers to 7.8% for infants born to mothers treated with zidovudine. There were no differences in pregnancy-related adverse events between the treatment groups. Of the 363 neonates that were evaluated, congenital abnormalities occurred with similar frequency between neonates born to mothers who received RETROVIR and neonates born to mothers who received placebo. The observed abnormalities included problems in embryogenesis (prior to 14 weeks) or were recognized on ultrasound before or immediately after initiation of study drug.

Zidovudine has been shown to cross the placenta and concentrations in neonatal plasma at birth were essentially equal to those in maternal plasma at delivery [see CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY].

Animal Data: A study in pregnant rats (at 50, 150, or 450 mg per kg per day starting 26 days prior to mating through gestation to postnatal Day 21) showed increased fetal resorptions at doses that produced systemic exposures (AUC) approximately 33 times higher than exposure at the recommended daily human dose (300 mg twice daily). However, in an oral embryo-fetal development study in rats (at 125, 250, or 500 mg per kg per day on gestation Days 6 through 15), no fetal resorptions were observed at doses that produced systemic exposure (AUC) approximately 117 times higher than exposures at the recommended daily human dose. An oral embryo-fetal development study in rabbits (at 75, 150, or 500 mg per kg per day on gestation Day 6 through 18) showed increased fetal resorptions at the 500-mg-per-kg-per-day dose, which produced systemic exposures (AUC) approximately 108 times higher than exposure at the recommended daily human dose; however, no fetal resorptions were noted at doses up to 150 mg per kg per day, which produced systemic exposure (AUC) approximately 23 times higher than exposures at the recommended daily human dose. These oral embryo-fetal development studies in the rat and rabbit revealed no evidence of fetal malformations with zidovudine. In another developmental toxicity study, pregnant rats (dosed at 3,000 mg per kg per day from Days 6 through 15 of gestation) showed marked maternal toxicity and an increased incidence of fetal malformations at exposures greater than 300 times the recommended daily human dose based on AUC. However, there were no signs of fetal malformations at doses up to 600 mg per kg per day.


Risk Summary

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that HIV-1-infected mothers in the United States not breastfeed their infants to avoid risking postnatal transmission of HIV-1 infection. Zidovudine is present in human milk. There is no information on the effects of zidovudine on the breastfed infant or the effects of the drug on milk production. Because of the potential for (1) HIV-1 transmission (in HIV-negative infants), (2) developing viral resistance (in HIV-positive infants), and (3) serious adverse reactions in a breastfed infant instruct mothers not to breastfeed if they are receiving RETROVIR.

Pediatric Use

RETROVIR has been studied in HIV-1-infected pediatric subjects aged at least 6 weeks who had HIV-1-related symptoms or who were asymptomatic with abnormal laboratory values indicating significant HIV-1-related immunosuppression. RETROVIR has also been studied in neonates perinatally exposed to HIV-1 [see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION, ADVERSE REACTIONS, CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY, Clinical Studies].

Geriatric Use

Clinical studies of RETROVIR did not include sufficient numbers of subjects aged 65 and over to determine whether they respond differently from younger subjects. Other reported clinical experience has not identified differences in responses between the elderly and younger patients. In general, dose selection for an elderly patient should be cautious, reflecting the greater frequency of decreased hepatic, renal, or cardiac function, and of concomitant disease or other drug therapy.

Renal Impairment

Unchanged zidovudine and its glucuronide metabolite (formed in the liver) are primarily eliminated from the body by renal excretion. In patients with severely impaired renal function (CrCl less than 15 mL per min), dosage reduction is recommended [see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION, CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY].

Hepatic Impairment

RETROVIR is primarily eliminated by hepatic metabolism and zidovudine concentrations appear to be increased in patients with impaired hepatic function, which may increase the risk of hematologic toxicity. Frequent monitoring of hematologic toxicities is advised. There are insufficient data to recommend dose adjustment of RETROVIR in patients with impaired hepatic function or liver cirrhosis [see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION, CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY].

This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.

Last reviewed on RxList: 3/10/2017


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