Written by Rachel Nall | Published on October 24, 2013
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD, MBA on October 24, 2013

What Is Combivir?

Brand Name: Combivir
Generic Name: Lamivudine/zidovudine, 3TC/ZDV

Combivir is a combination medication used to treat HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Combivir contains 100 milligrams of lamivudine and 300 milligrams of zidovudine. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the medication for use in children and adults weighing 30 kilograms (66 pounds) or more.

Read the FDA description of Combivir.

What Does Combivir Do?

When used in combination, the lamivudine and zidovudine found in Combivir have been shown to reduce the number of HIV viruses in the blood. While Combivir does not cure HIV, the medication is intended to slow the disease’s progression.

You can take Combivir with or without food.

This information is a summary. Before starting this medication, discuss questions with your healthcare provider and make sure you understand dosage instructions.

What Should I Tell My Doctor Before Starting Combivir?

Tell your doctor if you:

  • are breastfeeding or are planning on breastfeeding
  • are pregnant or are thinking of becoming pregnant
  • have ever experienced a hypersensitivity reaction to medication, such as Stevens-Johnson syndrome or anaphylaxis
  • have pancreatitis

What Medications May Interact with Combivir?

Always tell your physician about any prescription medications or herbal remedies you are taking.

Medications that can adversely interact with Combivir include:

  • antiretroviral agents, such as zalcitabine (Hivid) and stavudine (Zerit)
  • bone marrow suppression agents, such as ganciclovir (Cytovene and Cymevene), interferon alfa (Multiferon) or ribavirin (Copegus, Rebetol, Ribasphere, Vilona, Virazole)
  • doxorubicin (Doxil), a chemotherapy drug
  • medications that also contain lamivudine and/or zidovudine, such as Epivir, Epivir-HBV, Retrovir, Epzicom, or Trizivir
  • medications that contain emtricitabine, such as Trizivir, Atripla, Emtriva, Truvada, or Complera

Possible Side Effects of Combivir

The following are severe and emergent side effects of these medications. Report to your medical provider immediately if you experience:

  • anemia symptoms, such as shortness of breath, dizziness, or headaches
  • hepatotoxicity, such as hepatomegaly with steatosis, that affects your liver functioning; symptoms of this condition include dark urine, decrease in appetite, fatigue, jaundice or yellowing skin, nausea, and tenderness over the liver
  • immune reconstitution syndrome, a condition that causes an inflammatory response in viruses in the blood, such as pneumonia or tuberculosis
  • lactic acidosis, a condition that causes excess amounts of acid to build up in your blood; this causes symptoms such as weakness, tiredness, difficulty breathing, stomach pain, feeling cold, or feeling dizzy
  • myopathy, a condition that causes muscle weakness and pain
  • pancreatitis

The following side effects may occur, but do not usually represent an emergency. Discuss with your doctor or healthcare professional if they continue or are bothersome.

  • redistribution of body fact, including an enlargement of fat on the back of the neck (often called a buffalo hump), gaining weight in the midsection, and losing weight in the face and extremities
  • cough
  • diarrhea
  • dizziness
  • fatigue
  • headaches
  • malaise
  • muscle pain
  • nausea

This list may not describe all possible side effects. Call your doctor or healthcare provider for advice about side effects. You may report side effects to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

Combivir for Post-Exposure Prophylaxis

Doctors may prescribe Combivir as part of an HIV post-exposure prophylaxis or PEP regimen. If a person has been exposed to HIV, such as through a needle stick, the medication may help to reduce the likelihood that he or she will become infected with HIV. Patients must begin taking Combivir no more than 72 hours after the HIV exposure.

Where Should I Keep Combivir?

Combivir can be refrigerated or stored at room temperature, anywhere from 2 to 30 degrees Celsius or 36 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit.

Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use this medication only for the indication prescribed.

FDA WARNING: Combivir carries a black box warning (meaning the medication has potentially lethal side effects). The zidovudine found in Combivir can put patients at risk for hematologic toxicity, including neutropenia and severe anemia. Additionally, both lamivudine and zidovudine in Combivir can cause lactic acidosis or hepatomegaly, which can have deadly effects.

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Article Sources:

●      Basic and Expanded HIV Postexposure Prophylaxis Regimens. (2001, July 2). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved October 20, 2013, from
●      Combivir. (August 2002). FDA. Retrieved October 20, 2013, from
●      Combivir (Lamiduvine and Zidovudine). (March 2011). DailyMed National Institutes of Health. Retrieved October 20, 2013, from
●      Lamiduvine/Zidovudine. (January 2013). National Institutes of Health. Retrieved October 20, 2013 from

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