Generic name: Zidovudine.

Other brand name: AZT.

Retrovir is an antiviral. It inhibits the progression of the HIV virus, thus slowing the progression of AIDS.

Quick Facts About Retrovir


Used to slow the progress of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in adults, which can lead to acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). Also prescribed to treat HIV positive children over 3 months. Symptoms include: significant weight loss, fever, diarrhea, infections, and nervous system problems.

Retrovir Dosage

Take exactly as prescribed. Do not share Retrovir, and do not increase prescribed dose.

  • Usual adult dose: capsules and syrup — With HIV symptoms, including AIDS — initially 200 milligrams (two 100-milligram capsules or 4 teaspoons of syrup) taken every 4 hours around the clock. After 1 month doctor may reduce dose to 100 milligrams taken every 4 hours around the clock. Without HIV symptoms — 100 milligrams taken every 4 hours while awake.
  • Usual child dose: 3 months to 12 years — individually determined based on weight not to exceed 200 milligrams every 6 hours. Not prescribed for children under 3 months.
  • Missed dose: take as soon as possible, unless almost time for next dose. In that case, do not take missed dose; go back to regular schedule. Do not double doses.

Retrovir Side Effects

Overdose symptoms:

nausea, vomiting. If you suspect an overdose, immediately seek medical attention.

More common side effects: change in sense of taste, constipation, diarrhea, difficult or labored breathing, dizziness, fever, general feeling of illness, inability to fall or stay asleep, indigestion, loss of appetite, muscle pain, nausea, rash, severe headache, sleepiness, stomach and intestinal pain, sweating, tingling or pins and needles, vomiting, weakness.

Less common or rare Retrovir side effects: acne, anxiety, back pain, belching, bleeding from rectum, bleeding gums, body odor, changeable emotions, chest pain, chills, confusion, cough, decreased mental sharpness, depression, difficulty swallowing, dimness of vision, excess sensitivity to pain, fainting, fatigue, flu-like symptoms, frequent urination, gas, hearing loss, hives, hoarseness, increase in urine volume, inflammation of the sinuses or nose, itching, joint pain, light intolerance, mouth sores, muscle spasm, nervousness, nosebleed, painful or difficult urination, sore throat, swelling of the lip, swelling of the tongue, tremor, twitching, vertigo.


Inform your doctor before combining Retrovir with:

acetaminophen (Tylenol); amphotericin B (Fungizone); doxorubicin (Adriamycin, a cancer medication); aspirin; dapsone; flucytosine (Ancobon); indomethacin (Indocin); interferon (Intron A or Roferon); pentamidine (NebuPent or Pentam); phenytoin (Dilantin); probenecid (Benemid); vinblastine (Velban); vincristine (Oncovin). Combining Retrovir with phenytoin may cause seizures.

No known food/other substance interactions. 

Special Cautions

If pregnant or planning to become pregnant, inform your doctor immediately. Has been shown to protect fetus from contracting HIV. May appear in breast milk; could affect a nursing infant.

No special precautions apply to seniors.

Follow doctor’s instructions carefully for children.

  • Inform your doctor before taking Retrovir if you have a kidney or liver disorder. If you have bone marrow disease, use Retrovir with extreme caution.
  • Retrovir use may lead to blood diseases such as: granulocytopenia (sharp decrease in white blooc cells called granulocytes) and anemia severe enougf-to require blood transfusions.
  • May develop opportunistic infections — unusual infections that develop when the immune system is compromised. Doctor should do frequent blooc counts.
  • Side effects are more frequent and severe in indh viduals whose infection is more advanced.
  • May be difficult to distinguish side effects from symptoms of HIV or infections caused by HIV.
  • Should not take if you have had a life-threatening reaction to Retrovir. Inform your doctor if you develop any sensitivity reaction such as a rash.
  • Long-term safety and effectiveness are unknown.
  • Retrovir has not been shown to reduce the risk of transmitting HIV through sexual contact or blood contamination.

Note: provides accurate and independent information prescription pills, over-the-counter medicines and natural products. This material is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you have questions about  dosage, or Retrovir side effects, please contact your healthcare provider