Retrovir was the first medication approved for treating HIV infection and AIDS. It is also used in pregnant women with HIV to help prevent transmission of the virus to the unborn child. This drug is generally taken two to five times daily and comes in several different forms, including tablets, capsules, and syrup. Potential side effects include nausea, loss of appetite, and headaches.

What Is Retrovir?

Retrovir® (zidovudine) is a prescription medication used to treat HIV infection or AIDS. It is approved as a treatment for HIV and to help prevent pregnant women with the virus from spreading it to their babies. Retrovir was the first HIV medication to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It is also known as azidothymidine (AZT for short) or ZDV.
(Click Retrovir Uses for more information, including possible off-label uses.)

Who Makes It?

Retrovir is made by GlaxoSmithKline.

How Does Retrovir Work?

Retrovir is part of a group of HIV medications known as nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs). These medicines work by blocking a process that the HIV virus needs in order to multiply.
HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is the virus that causes AIDS. Like other viruses, it must use a person's own cells to reproduce. However, HIV is a little different from other viruses because it must first convert its genetic material from RNA to DNA. It is the DNA genes that allow HIV to multiply.
The virus converts its genetic material using a special protein called the reverse transcriptase enzyme. To create DNA, this enzyme uses several different molecular building-blocks.
Retrovir works by tricking reverse transcriptase into thinking it is one of these molecular building-blocks. However, it is just different enough that when used to create DNA, the medicine actually stops the DNA from being made. Without DNA, HIV cannot multiply.
The medication is not a cure for HIV or AIDS. It can help stop HIV from infecting healthy cells in the body, but it does not help cells that have already been infected with the virus.

Retrovir Therapy -- Drug Information

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