Zalcitabine (patient information)

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Zalcitabine can cause severe side effects, such as pancreatitis, severe liver damage or failure, lactic acidosis, and a serious nerve disorder called peripheral neuropathy. Some may even lead to death.

Call your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms: unusual breathing, loss of appetite, upset stomach, vomiting, dark urine, yellowing of the skin, pale stools, stomach pain, or numbness, tingling, burning, or pain in the fingers or toes. Your doctor may have you stop taking your medicine.

Keep all appointments with your doctor and the laboratory. Your doctor will order certain lab tests to check your response to zalcitabine.

Why is this medication prescribed

Zalcitabine is used alone or with other medications to treat human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection in patients with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). It will slow the spread of HIV infection in the body. Zalcitabine is not a cure and may not decrease the number of HIV-related illnesses. Zalcitabine does not prevent the spread of HIV to other people.

This medication is sometimes prescribed for other uses; ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.

How should this medicine be used

Zalcitabine comes as a tablet to take by mouth. It is usually taken every 8 hours (three times a day). Follow the directions on your prescription label carefully, and ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain any part you do not understand. Take zalcitabine exactly as directed. Do not take more or less of it or take it more often than prescribed by your doctor.

Continue to take zalcitabine even if you feel well. Do not stop taking zalcitabine without talking to your doctor.

What special precautions should I follow

Before taking zalcitabine

  • tell your doctor and pharmacist if you are allergic to zalcitabine or any other drugs.
  • tell your doctor and pharmacist what prescription and nonprescription medications you are taking, especially amphotericin, antibiotics, cisplatin (Platinol), dapsone, didanosine (Videx, DDI), disulfiram (Antabuse), doxorubicin (Adriamycin, Rubex), ethionamide (Trecator-SC), foscarnet (Foscavir), glutethimide (Doriden), gold, hydralazine (Apresoline), interferon, iodoquinol (Yodoxin), isoniazid (INH), medications for your stomach, such as antacids (Mylanta) or cimetidine (Tagamet), metoclopramide (Reglan), metronidazole (Flagyl), nitrofurantoin (Macrodantin), pentamidine (Pentam, NebuPent), phenytoin (Dilantin), probenecid (Benemid), ribavirin (Virazole), vincristine (Oncovin), and vitamins.
  • tell your doctor if you have or have ever had kidney, liver, or pancreas disease, tingling of the hands or feet (called peripheral neuropathy), any heart problems, a history of alcohol abuse, anemia, or bleeding or other blood problems.
  • tell your doctor if you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breast-feeding. If you become pregnant while taking zalcitabine, call your doctor.
  • tell your doctor if you drink alcohol.

What special dietary instructions should I follow

Zalcitabine should be taken on an empty stomach at least 1 hour before or 2 hours after a meal.

What should I do if I forget a dose

Take the missed dose as soon as you remember it. However, if it is almost time for the next dose, skip the missed dose and continue your regular dosing schedule. Do not take a double dose to make up for a missed one.

Side Effects

Mild side effects

Side effects from zalcitabine are common. Tell your doctor if any of these symptoms are severe or do not go away:

  • mouth sores
  • headache
  • fatigue
  • fever

Severe side effects

If you experience any of the following symptoms, or those listed in the IMPORTANT WARNING section, call your doctor immediately:

  • rash
  • hives
  • difficulty breathing
  • pain when swallowing
  • unusual bleeding or bruising
  • pale skin
  • weakness
  • chills
  • sore throat

If you experience a serious side effect, you or your doctor may send a report to the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program online [at] or by phone [1-800-332-1088].

What storage conditions are needed for this medicine

Keep this medication in the container it came in, tightly closed, and out of reach of children. Store it at room temperature and away from excess heat and moisture (not in the bathroom). Throw away any medication that is outdated or no longer needed. Talk to your pharmacist about the proper disposal of your medication.

In case of emergency/overdose

In case of overdose, call your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222. If the victim has collapsed or is not breathing, call local emergency services at 911.

What other information should I know

Do not let anyone else take your medication. Ask your pharmacist any questions you have about refilling your prescription.

Brand names

  • HIVID®

Other names

  • ddC

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