Zidovudine therapy is an antiretroviral therapy (ART) that is used to treat patients with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Zidovudine was the first drug approved for the treatment of HIV. Zidovudine greatly reduces the transmission of HIV from the mother to her child. It is given to HIV-positive pregnant women from the fourth month of pregnancy until their baby is born and to the newborn baby for six weeks. Zidovudine is in a class of medications called nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs). It works by decreasing the amount of HIV in the blood. There is no absolute rule about when to start this therapy. Doctors usually consider the patient’s CD4 (type of lymphocyte) cell count, viral load, and symptoms before starting this therapy. Although Zidovudine does not cure HIV, it may reduce the risk of AIDS and HIV-related illnesses, such as serious infections or cancer. Taking these medications along with practicing safer sex and making other lifestyle changes may reduce the risk of transmitting (spreading) the HIV virus to other people.
- Zidovudine comes as a capsule, tablet, and syrup to be taken orally. It is usually taken three to four times a day. In some cases, it may be taken five times a day. This medication is also injectable and can be given intravenously (IV; directly into the vein) by a doctor.
- The recommended dose of Zidovudine for adults is 500-600 mg daily. Zidovudine comes in 100 mg capsules and 300 mg tablets. It is also available in liquid form.
- Zidovudine is also available in Combivir and Trizivir. Combivir contains zidovudine and lamivudine. Trizivir contains zidovudine, lamivudine, and abacavir.
The patient may have temporary side effects that may include:
The most serious side effects of Zidovudine therapy are as follows:
- Anemia: Shortage of red blood cells caused by damage to the bone marrow. If a patient has anemia, the doctor might reduce the dose or switch Zidovudine for another ART. If the anemia is severe and the patient keeps taking Zidovudine, the patient may need a blood transfusion or might be prescribed the drug Erythropoietin.
- Myopathy: The patient has generalized muscle pain and weakness. There is no specific treatment for myopathy.
- Neutropenia: It is an abnormally low number of neutrophils; the most common type of white blood cell. Neutropenia increases the risk of bacterial and fungal infections.
- It is usually contraindicated for patients who have potentially life-threatening allergic reactions to any of the components of the formulation. It should not be given to patients with abnormally low neutrophils counts (less than 0.75 × 109 /L) or abnormally low hemoglobin levels (less than 7.5 g/dL or 4.65 mmol/L).
What happens if I miss a dose?
It is important to adhere to a medication regimen, especially during cases with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Take the medicine as soon as you can but skip the missed dose if it is almost time for your next dose. Do not take two doses at one time. Intravenous (IV) Zidovudine injection is usually given in a clinical setting, and the patient should not miss the appointments.