What is ganciclovir?

Ganciclovir is an antiviral drug. It slows the growth and spread of the cytomegalovirus.

Ganciclovir is used to treat and prevent infections caused by cytomegalovirus. This infection usually occurs in patients who have suppressed immune systems such as patients with AIDS and organ transplant patients.

Ganciclovir may also be used for purposes other than those listed in this medication guide.


Before taking ganciclovir, tell your doctor if you have

  • had an allergic reaction to ganciclovir or acyclovir (Zovirax);
  • kidney disease; or
  • blood problems or low blood counts.

You may not be able to take ganciclovir, or you may need a dosage adjustment or special monitoring during treatment if you have any of the conditions listed above.

Ganciclovir is in the FDA pregnancy category C. This means that it is not known whether ganciclovir will be harmful to an unborn baby. Ganciclovir has caused birth defects in animals, and it is generally not recommended for use during pregnancy. Women should use an effective form of birth control during treatment with ganciclovir. Also, men should use a form of barrier contraception (e.g., condom) during and for at least 90 days following treatment with ganciclovir.

It is not known whether ganciclovir passes into breast milk. Generally, breast-feeding should be avoided during treatment with ganciclovir. Do not take ganciclovir without first talking to your doctor if you are breast-feeding a baby.

There are no restrictions on food, beverages, or activity during treatment with ganciclovir unless otherwise directed by your doctor.

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Seek emergency medical attention if an overdose is suspected.

Symptoms of a ganciclovir overdose include seizures, diarrhea, kidney damage (decreased urine production), liver damage (yellowing of the skin or eyes, abdominal pain), and bone marrow damage (paleness, increased chance of infection, fever and chills).

If a dose of oral ganciclovir is missed, take the missed dose as soon as you remember. If it is almost time for the next dose, skip that dose and take only your next regularly scheduled dose. Do not take a double dose of this medication.

Contact your healthcare provider if you miss a dose of injectable ganciclovir.

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Side effects

Serious side effects affecting the blood have been reported with the use of ganciclovir. Decreased levels of blood cells (white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets) have occurred. Your doctor may monitor your blood with blood tests.

Stop taking ganciclovir and seek emergency medical attention if you experience any of the following serious side effects:

  • an allergic reaction (difficulty breathing; closing of the throat; swelling of the lips, tongue, or face; or hives);
  • paleness and fatigue that may be signs of anemia (a low level of red blood cells);
  • unusual bleeding or bruising;
  • fever or signs of infection; or
  • numbness or tingling in a part of your body.

Other, less serious side effects may be more likely to occur. Continue to take ganciclovir and talk to your doctor if you experience

  • nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or decreased appetite;
  • increased sweating;
  • itching; or
  • decreased sperm production or infertility.

Side effects other than those listed here may also occur. Talk to your doctor about any side effect that seems unusual or that is especially bothersome. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

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Before taking ganciclovir, tell your doctor if you are taking any of the following drugs:

  • zidovudine (Retrovir, AZT);
  • didanosine (Videx);
  • probenecid (Benemid); or
  • imipenem-cilastatin (Primaxin).

You may not be able to take ganciclovir, or you may require a dosage adjustment or special monitoring if you are taking any of the medicines listed above.

Drugs other than those listed here may also interact with ganciclovir. Talk to your doctor and pharmacist before taking any prescription or over-the-counter medicines, including herbal products.

Other Names

Cytovene and ganciclovir

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Every effort has been made to ensure that the information provided by Cerner Multum, Inc. ('Multum') is accurate, up-to-date, and complete, but no guarantee is made to that effect. Drug information contained herein may be time sensitive. Multum information has been compiled for use by healthcare practitioners and consumers in the United States and therefore Multum does not warrant that uses outside of the United States are appropriate, unless specifically indicated otherwise. Multum's drug information does not endorse drugs, diagnose patients or recommend therapy. Multum's drug information is an informational resource designed to assist licensed healthcare practitioners in caring for their patients and/or to serve consumers viewing this service as a supplement to, and not a substitute for, the expertise, skill, knowledge and judgment of healthcare practitioners. The absence of a warning for a given drug or drug combination in no way should be construed to indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective or appropriate for any given patient. Multum does not assume any responsibility for any aspect of healthcare administered with the aid of information Multum provides. The information contained herein is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. If you have questions about the drugs you are taking, check with your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.

Copyright 1996-2004 Cerner Multum, Inc. Version 2.05. Revision date 8/23/04

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