Stavudine

Brand names of stavudine

  • Zerit

For the treatment of the human immunodeficiency virus or HIV, stavudine is the prescribed oral medication. This medicament, like zalcitabine (Hivid), zidovudine (Retrovir), didanosine (Videx), and lamivudine (Epivir), falls in the category of reverse transcriptase inhibitors. When a person is infected with the HIV, the HIV virus grows inside the cells of his/her body. The HIV viruses spread from one cell to another, thereby infecting the entire body of the person. In this way, the HIV infection is transmitted from the infected cells to uninfected cells. In order to give birth to new viruses, the HIV virus creates DNA for each new virus. The enzyme required to create new DNA is known as reverse transcriptase. The actual process involves conversion of stavudine to its active form - stavudine triphosphate. This active form, used by the HIV virus to form new DNA, resembles thymidine triphosphate. During the formation of fresh DNA, the process of reverse transcriptase involves usage of stavudine triphosphate in place of thymidine triphosphate. The former chemical interferes with the process of reverse transcriptase. HIV virus is not killed by stavudine. Also, this chemical cannot cure the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The FDA approved stavudine in June, 1994.

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Prior to taking stavudine let your health care provider know

  • If you develop an allergy to stavudine or other medicines.
  • The type of prescription and nonprescription medicines, vitamins, nutritional supplements and herbal supplements you are consuming. You must mention zidovudine. To avoid side effects, your doctor may alter the medication dose, or keep track of your progress.
  • If you suffer with, or have a history of kidney-related ailments, diabetes (in case you are consuming stavudine solution), or peripheral neuropathy (a type of nerve damage that results in tickling, pain in the hands and feet, and numbness)
  • If you breast feed your baby. Patients suffering from HIV, or consuming stavudine, must not breastfeed.
  • Stavudine produces certain side effects that should be dealt with immediately. Children, in general, cannot express the side effects related to stavudine. In case your child is taking stavudine, you should consult his doctor to assess if the child has developed/is developing side effects.
  • Increase in body fat, and shift in fat from one part to another (such as the breasts and upper back) can occur due to consumption of stavudine.
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Usage

Though stavudine is not a cure for HIV infection, it has been found to arrest the growth of the HIV virus, thereby delaying the progress of the HIV disease.

How to use stavudine

Before consuming stavudine, or getting a refill, you should read the Patient Information Leaflet given by the pharmacist. You should consult with your doctor or pharmacist about any queries that may arise. This medication should be taken orally with or without food, every 12 hours, or as prescribed by the medical practitioner. The dosage of stavudine depends on three factors - weight of the patient, medical condition, and response to the treatment. For patients new to HIV medications, symptoms of an old infection may be visible. If symptoms like improper breathing, fever, cough, vision problems, headaches or skin problems appear, you should consult your doctor immediately. When this medicament is administered in such a way that its level is constant in your body, it yields maximum benefit. Hence, you should consume this medicine at evenly distributed intervals. Therefore, you should take this medication at precisely the same time daily. You must take stavudine and other HIV medications as prescribed by your doctor. You must not forget taking the medication on time. Also, you can refill your medication before it gets over. You should not also increase/decrease/stop the prescribed dose even for a short time period. This is because failing to take the prescribed dose, or altering the dose without the doctor's consent, may trigger the growth of the HIV virus, thereby intensifying the infection (or making the HIV virus resistant to the medicine). It may also exacerbate the side effects. You should consult your doctor if your condition prevails or aggravates.

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How it works

The HIV virus grows only when the reverse transcriptase enzyme is available to replicate DNA in infected cells. Stavudine (d4T) prevents this enzyme activity, thereby arresting the reproduction of the HIV virus.

Side effects

Serious
Common
No common side effects are associated with the use of stavudine.
Less common
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Possible interactions

Other medicaments
Stavudine taken along with:
  • Medications such as metronidazole (Flagyl), that can help develop peripheral neuropathy, should not be consumed.
Stavudine may intensify or reduce the effects of:
  • Didanosine (Videx) at particular ratios of medicament concentration.
  • Zidovudine (AZT) at particular ratios of medicament concentration.
Herbal medicines or minerals
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Discontinuation

Stavudine should not be discontinued without the consent of your doctor.

Storage instructions

Stavudine should be stored preferably at 77°F (25°C) in a dry place, away from direct light. However, for shorter time, the said medication can be stored at 59-86°F (15-30°C). This medicament should not be stored in the bathroom. Also, it should be kept away from kids and animals. Unless otherwise mentioned, you must not flush the medications down the urinal or the drain. If you do not need the product anymore, or if the medicine has reached its expiry date, you should discard it in a proper manner. You can also talk to your pharmacist or your local waste disposal organization to learn about the correct ways to discard the product.

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