What is zalcitabine, and how does it work (mechanism of action)?

Zalcitabine is an oral 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 lamivudine (Epivir), zidovudine (Retrovir), didanosine (Videx), and stavudine (Zerit). 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 virus, the HIV virus must manufacture new DNA for each virus. Reverse transcriptase is the enzyme that the virus uses to form this new DNA. Specifically, zalcitabine is converted within the body to its active form (dideoxycytidine triphosphate). This active form is similar to a compound (deoxycytidine triphosphate), a chemical that is used by the HIV virus to make new DNA. The reverse transcriptase uses dideoxycytidine triphosphate instead of deoxycytidine triphosphate for making DNA, and the dideoxycytidine triphosphate interferes with the action of the reverse transcriptase. Zalcitabine does not kill existing HIV virus, and it is not a cure for HIV. Zalcitabine was approved by the FDA in June 1992.

What brand names are available for zalcitabine?

Hivid (Discontinued)

Is zalcitabine available as a generic drug?


Do I need a prescription for zalcitabine?


What are the side effects of zalcitabine?

The most severe side effects are inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis), liver failure, metabolic disturbance (lactic acidosis) and peripheral neuropathy (damage to sensory nerves of the extremities). Symptoms of peripheral neuropathy are tingling, numbness and pain in the feet or hands. Other side effects are headache, fever, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, rash, mouth ulcers, painful swallowing, and difficulty sleeping.

What is the dosage for zalcitabine?

The recommended dose for adults is 0.75 mg every 8 hours.


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Is zalcitabine safe to take if I'm pregnant or breastfeeding?

It is not known whether zalcitabine is excreted in breast milk. HIV-infected mothers should not breastfeed because of the potential risk of transmitting HIV to an infant that is not infected.

What else should I know about zalcitabine?

What preparations of zalcitabine are available?

Tablets: 0.375, 0.75 mg

How should I keep zalcitabine stored?

Tablets should be stored at room temperature, 15 C to 30 C (59 F to 86 F).


Zalcitabine (Hivid - discontinued) is a medication used to treat HIV infection. Hivid is no longer available in the U.S. and there is no generic version. Side effects, drug interactions, dosage, and pregnancy safety information should be reviewed prior to taking this medication.

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See more info: zalcitabine on RxList
Medically reviewed by John Cunha, DO

Reference: FDA Prescribing Information