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Precautions and Warnings With Stavudine

There are numerous precautions and warnings with stavudine to be aware of before you take the medicine. For example, stavudine can potentially interact with certain other drugs. Also, it is important to know that stavudine can cause potentially dangerous medical conditions, including pancreatitis, liver damage, and nerve problems. Among the people who should avoid the drug are those who are allergic to any ingredients used to make stavudine.

Stavudine: What Should I Tell My Healthcare Provider?

You should talk with your healthcare provider prior to taking stavudine (Zerit®) if you have:
  • Liver disease, such as liver failure, cirrhosis, or hepatitis
  • Kidney disease, including kidney failure (renal failure)
  • Any allergies, including allergies to food, dyes, or preservatives.
Also, let your healthcare provider know if you are:
  • Pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant
  • Breastfeeding.
You should also be sure to tell your healthcare provider about any other medicines you are taking, including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.

Specific Precautions and Warnings With Stavudine

Some warnings and precautions to be aware of prior to taking stavudine include the following:
  • Rarely, stavudine can cause lactic acidosis and hepatic steatosis. These conditions are caused by damage to the liver and can be very dangerous. You are at a higher risk for these conditions if you already have liver disease.
  • Stavudine can cause inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis), which can be very dangerous. Let your healthcare provider know immediately if you have any signs of pancreatitis, such as:


    • A tender or swollen abdomen (stomach)
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Fever
    • A rapid heart rate (tachycardia)
    • Rapid breathing.


  • Stavudine can cause nerve problems (known as peripheral neuropathy). Often, these nerve problems cause unusual sensations, such as numbness, burning, or tingling.
  • The kidneys help remove stavudine from the body. If you have kidney disease, your healthcare provider may need to monitor you more closely and may need to lower your stavudine dosage.
  • Stavudine can change the distribution of fat on your body. You may gain fat in areas that are not typical for you, such as in the abdomen or at the back of the neck (a "buffalo hump"), and you may lose weight in other areas.
  • Stavudine is not a cure for HIV or AIDS. If you have HIV or AIDS, you should always use safer sex practices, regardless of whether you are taking medications.
  • As with all HIV medications, it is important that you take stavudine exactly as prescribed. Missing doses may increase the chance of the virus becoming resistant to HIV medications.


  • When you first start taking this medication and your immune system begins to recover, a group of problems known as immune reconstitution syndrome may occur. Your immune system may start aggressively reacting to any infections you may have and may cause extreme inflammation. There have even been cases of autoimmune disorders (such as Graves' disease, polymyositis, and Guillain-Barré syndrome) possibly caused by this problem. 


  • Stavudine can interact with a few different medications (see Drug Interactions With Stavudine for more information).
  • Stavudine is considered a pregnancy Category C medication. This means that it may not be safe for use during pregnancy, although the full risks are not known (see Zerit and Pregnancy).
  • It is not known if stavudine passes through breast milk. Therefore, if you are breastfeeding or plan to start breastfeeding, discuss this with your healthcare provider prior to taking the drug (see Zerit and Breastfeeding). It is important to understand that the HIV virus can be transmitted through breast milk and that breastfeeding is usually not recommended in women with HIV or AIDS.

Stavudine for Treating HIV/AIDS

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