Ganciclovir may lower the number of all types of cells in your blood, causing serious and life-threatening problems. Tell your doctor if you have or have ever had anemia (red blood cells do not bring enough oxygen to all parts of the body); neutropenia (less than normal number of white blood cells); thrombocytopenia (less than normal number of platelets); or other blood or bleeding problems. Tell your doctor if you have ever developed blood problems as a side effect of any medication. Tell your doctor and pharmacist if you are taking or have taken any of the following medications: anticoagulants ('blood thinners') such as warfarin (Coumadin);cancer chemotherapy medications; dapsone; flucytosine (Ancobon); heparin; immunosuppressants such as azathioprine (Azasan, Imuran), cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune), methotrexate (Rheumatrex), sirolimus (Rapamune), and tacrolimus (Prograf); interferons (Infergen, Intron A, PEGASYS, PEG-Intron, Roferon-A); medications to treat human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) including didanosine (Videx) , zalcitabine (HIVID), or zidovudine (Retrovir, AZT); nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to treat pain and swelling such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn), and others; pentamidine (NebuPent, Pentam); pyrimethamine (Daraprim, in Fansidar); steroids such as dexamethasone (Decadron), prednisone (Deltasone), or others; trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole (co-trimoxazole, Bactrim, Septra); or if you have received or are receiving radiation (X-ray) therapy.If you experience any of the following symptoms, call your doctor immediately: excessive tiredness; pale skin; headache; dizziness; confusion; fast heartbeat; difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep; weakness; shortness of breath; unusual bleeding or bruising; or sore throat, fever, chills, cough, or other signs of infection.
Keep all appointments with your doctor and the laboratory. Your doctor will order certain tests to check your body's response to ganciclovir.
Laboratory animals who were given ganciclovir developed birth defects. It is not known if ganciclovir causes birth defects in people. If you can become pregnant, you should use effective birth control while taking ganciclovir. If you are a man and your partner can become pregnant, you should use a condom while taking this medication, and for 90 days after your treatment. Talk to your doctor if you have questions about birth control. Do not use ganciclovir if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. If you become pregnant while taking ganciclovir, call your doctor immediately.
Laboratory animals who were given ganciclovir developed a lower sperm count (fewer male reproductive cells) and fertility problems. It is not known if ganciclovir causes lower sperm counts in men or problems with fertility in women.
Laboratory animals who were given ganciclovir developed cancer. It is not known if ganciclovir increases the risk of cancer in humans.
The manufacturer warns that ganciclovir should only be used for treatment of patients with certain diseases because the medication may cause severe side effects and there is currently not enough information to support safety and effectiveness in other groups of patients. (See the section, WHY is this medication is prescribed?)
Talk to your doctor about the risks of taking ganciclovir.
Ganciclovir capsules are used to treat cytomegalovirus (CMV) retinitis (eye infection that can cause blindness) in people whose immune system is not working normally. Ganciclovir capsules are used to treat CMV retinitis after the condition has been controlled by intravenous (injected into a vein) ganciclovir. Ganciclovir is also used to prevent cytomegalovirus (CMV) disease in people who have acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) or who have received an organ transplant and are at risk of CMV disease. Ganciclovir is in a class of medications called antivirals. It works by preventing the spread of CMV disease or slowing the growth of CMV.
Ganciclovir comes as a capsule to take by mouth. It is usually taken with food three to six times a day.To help you remember to take ganciclovir, take it at around the same times every day. Follow the directions on your prescription label carefully, and ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain any part you do not understand. Take ganciclovir exactly as directed. Do not take more or less of it or take it more often than prescribed by your doctor.
Swallow the capsules whole; do not open, split, chew, or crush them.
Be careful when handling ganciclovir capsules. Do not allow your skin, eyes, mouth, or nose to come into contact with broken or crushed ganciclovir capsules. If such contact occurs, wash your skin well with soap and water or rinse your eyes well with plain water.
You generally will receive intravenous (into a vein) ganciclovir for several weeks before you begin to take ganciclovir capsules. If your condition gets worse during your treatment, you may be given a second course of intravenous ganciclovir. Your doctor may decrease your dose of ganciclovir capsules if you experience side effects.
Ganciclovir controls CMV but does not cure it.It may take some time before you feel the full benefit of ganciclovir. Continue to take ganciclovir even if you feel well. Do not stop taking ganciclovir without talking to your doctor. Stopping to take ganciclovir too soon may cause the amount of CMV in your blood to increase or the virus to become resistant to this medication.
The manufacturer states that this medication should not be prescribed for other uses; ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.
Be sure to drink plenty of fluids while you are taking ganciclovir.
Take the missed dose as soon as you remember it. However, if it is almost time for the next dose, skip the missed dose and continue your regular dosing schedule. Do not take a double dose to make up for a missed one.
loss of appetite
changes in ability to taste food
joint or muscle pain or cramps
seeing specks, flashes of light, or a dark curtain over everything
swelling of the hands, arms, feet, ankles, or lower legs
numbness, pain, burning, or tingling in the hands or feet
shaking hands that you cannot control
difficulty breathing or swallowing
Ganciclovir may cause other side effects. Call your doctor if you have any unusual problems while taking this medication.
If you experience a serious side effect, you or your doctor may send a report to the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program online [at http://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch] or by phone [1-800-332-1088].
Keep this medication in the container it came in, tightly closed, and out of reach of children. Store it at room temperature and away from excess heat and moisture (not in the bathroom). Throw away any medication that is outdated or no longer needed. Talk to your pharmacist about the proper disposal of your medication.
In case of overdose, call your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222. If the victim has collapsed or is not breathing, call local emergency services at 911.
loss of appetite
unusual bleeding or bruising
shortness of breath
sore throat, fever, chills, cough, or other signs of infection
swelling of the hands, arms, feet, ankles, or lower legs
yellowing of the skin or eyes
pain in the upper right part of the stomach
Your doctor may order regular eye exams while you are taking this medication. Keep all appointments with the ophthalmologist (eye exams).
Before having any laboratory test, tell your doctor and the laboratory personnel that you are taking ganciclovir.
Do not let anyone else take your medication. Ask your pharmacist any questions you have about refilling your prescription. Do not let your supply of ganciclovir run out.
It is important for you to keep a written list of all of the prescription and nonprescription (over-the-counter) medicines you are taking, as well as any products such as vitamins, minerals, or other dietary supplements. You should bring this list with you each time you visit a doctor or if you are admitted to a hospital. It is also important information to carry with you in case of emergencies.
Last Reviewed - 09/01/2010
AHFS® Consumer Medication Information. © Copyright, 2015. The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, Inc., 7272 Wisconsin Avenue, Bethesda, Maryland. All Rights Reserved. Duplication for commercial use must be authorized by ASHP.