Medication Information Leaflet

What is this medication for?

Zidovudine is an antiretroviral medication used to treat the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infection. It works by preventing the virus from replicating (reproducing), and hence, reducing the amount of viruses (viral load) in your body. This increases the CD4 cell count in your body. CD4 cells are a type of immune cells that help your body fight off infections. However,  Zidovudine is not a cure for HIV infection. It must be taken consistently every day to slow the progression of the disease. It is usually given in combination with other anti-retroviral medications (combination therapy). 

How should I take/use this medication?

  • Do not stop taking your medication without checking with your healthcare professional. Stopping medication may result in worsening infection and/ or acquisition of other infections.
  • It is important to take the antiretroviral combination therapy exactly as prescribed every day to prevent the virus from becoming resistant to the medication. 
  • You may take this medication with or without food. 

What should I do if I forget to take/use this medication?

If you forget to take a dose, take it as soon as you remember. Then take your next dose at the usual time. Do not take two doses to make up for the missed dose. 

What precautions should I take?

Inform your healthcare professional if: 

  • You are allergic to this medication or any of the other ingredients of this medication
  • You have pre-existing blood-related medical conditions (eg. anaemia) that result in low blood cell counts
  • You are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or breastfeeding 
  • You are taking any other medications, including supplements, traditional medications and herbal remedies. 

What are some common side-effects of this medication?

  • Headache, fatigue
    • Mild painkillers like Paracetamol can be taken to reduce the pain
  • Nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea/ constipation
    • Try taking Zidovudine with or after food 
    • Try sucking on hard candy to prevent the nausea sensation
    • Drink water regularly to replenish fluid loss (if there is no fluid limitation)

Inform your healthcare professional if these side effects persist or are intolerable.

What are some rare but serious side-effects that I need to seek medical advice immediately?

  • Liver injury
    • Monitor for symptoms such as yellowing of the skin or eye whites, dark (tea-coloured) urine, pale coloured stools, unexplained pain or discomfort on the right side of the abdomen
  • Changes to blood cell count
    • Unusual bleeding/ bruising that takes longer to recover from
    • Falling tired, sick more easily 
  • Changes to fat distribution
    • Loss of fat from legs, arms and face
  • Build up of lactic acid
    • Monitor for symptoms of rapid or difficult breathing, numbness and weakness in the limbs and muscles, nausea and vomiting, state of confusion
    • Higher risk in those with liver disease, obese, females

Stop your medication and see your healthcare professional immediately if you experience any symptoms of a drug allergy which include(s) one or more of the following: 

  • Swollen face/eyes/lips/tongue
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Itchy skin rashes over your whole body

What food or medication should I avoid when I take this medication?

Not applicable

How should I store this medication?

Store in a cool and dry place, away from direct sunlight. Keep this medication away from children. 

How should I throw away this medication safely?

Pack the medication into a bag and bring it back to the pharmacy where you received the medication from.


Please take note that the above is not a complete list of all possible side effects. If you have any concerns about your medication or if you have other side effects that you think are caused by this medication, please consult your doctor or pharmacist.

 If you take more than the recommended dose, please seek medical advice immediately. The information provided on this page does not replace information from your healthcare professional. Please consult your healthcare professional for more information.

This article is jointly developed by members of the National Medication Information workgroup. The workgroup consists of cluster partners (National Healthcare Group, National University Health System and SingHealth), community pharmacies (Guardian, Unity and Watsons) and Pharmaceutical Society of Singapore. The content does not reflect drug availability and supply information in pharmacies and healthcare institutions. You are advised to check with the respective institutions for such information.

Last updated in Dec 2023

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