GENERIC NAME: zidovudine (AZT)
BRAND NAME: Retrovir
DRUG CLASS AND MECHANISM: Zidovudine is an oral and injectable medication that is used for the treatment of infections with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). It is in a class of drugs called reverse transcriptase inhibitors which also includes zalcitabine (Hivid), stavudine (Zerit), didanosine (Videx), and lamivudine (Epivir). During infection with HIV, the HIV virus multiplies within the body's cells. The newly-formed viruses then are released from the cells and spread throughout the body where they infect other cells. In this manner, the infection continually spreads to new, uninfected cells that the body is continually producing, and HIV infection is perpetuated. When producing new viruses, the HIV virus must manufacture new DNA for each virus. Reverse transcriptase is the enzyme that the virus uses to make this new DNA. Zidovudine inhibits the activity of reverse transcriptase and blocks the production of DNA and new viruses. Specifically, zidovudine is converted within the body to its active form (zidovudine triphosphate). This active form is similar to the compound thymidine triphosphate, a chemical that is required by the HIV virus to make new DNA. The reverse transcriptase uses zidovudine triphosphate instead of thymidine triphosphate for making DNA, and it is the zidovudine triphosphate that interferes with the reverse transcriptase. Zidovudine does not kill existing HIV virus, and it is not a cure for HIV. Retrovir was approved by the FDA in 1987.
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