Zidovudine (or AZT) was the first drug ever used to successfully treat HIV. Many treatment-experienced people received AZT monotherapy in the past and have developed resistance to the drug.

AZT is still precribed, usually in combination with another NRTI  lamivudine (Combivir), but is not the  ideal first-line drug due to its links to lipodystrophy.

Zidovudine and lamivudine remains the preferred option in pregnant women.

Basic info

Generic name zidovudine
Brand name Retrovir
Also known as AZT
Drug class Nucleoside/Nucleotide Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors
Pediatric dosing? Available in doses suitable for children and/or young people.
Availability in Australia Available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) through S100 prescribers since 1987
This drug may be available through clinical trials in Australia.
You may be able to import this drug from overseas for your personal use.
Formulation 100mg capsule; 250mg capsule; 10mg per mL, 200 mL syrup

Taking it

Like most anti-HIV drugs, zidovudine must be taken in combination with other drugs to be completely effective. Commonly, zidovudine is combined with one other nucleoside (NRTI) drug and either a protease inhibitor or non-nucleoside, although other combinations are sometimes used. Your doctor will advise you on the right combination of drugs to suit your circumstances.


The normal adult dose is one 250mg capsule taken twice a day.

Regardless of what you read on this website or elsewhere, you should always take your medications according to your doctor's instructions. If you're unsure, speak to your doctor or pharmacist.

With or without food

zidovudine may be taken with or without food

Side effect

All drugs can produce side effects in some people. These may be mild, moderate or severe, so you should be aware of potential side effects before starting any drug, and speak to your doctor if you experience side effects that concern you.

  • Common side effects may include nausea (upset stomach, feeling sick to the stomach), vomiting, headache, fatigue, dizziness, weakness, muscle pain, lipodystrophy.
  • Less common side effects may include blood disorders, muscle damage.
  • It's unlikely you will experience all of these side effects, and you may not experience any side effects at all. Before starting any new drug, ask your doctor about side effects you might experience and discuss strategies for dealing with side effects if they do occur. If you experience any significant side effect you should continue taking your medicine and see your doctor as soon as possible.

Interactions with other drugs

Avoid using with Ribavirin or monitor for side effects, and any effect on viral load. Monitor for adverse side effects if you are also using methadone. Should not be used with stavudine (d4T).