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Ganciclovir is used to treat the symptoms of cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection of the eyes in people whose immune system is not working fully. This includes patients with acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). Ganciclovir will not cure this eye infection, but it may help to keep the symptoms from becoming worse. It is also used to help prevent CMV infection in patients who receive organ or bone marrow transplants, as well as in patients with advanced human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. Ganciclovir may be used for other serious CMV infections as determined by your doctor. However, it does not work in treating certain viruses, such as the common cold or the flu.

What is ganciclovir?

Ganciclovir is a prescription medicine approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of cytomegalovirus (CMV) retinitis (a viral infection and inflammation of the eye’s retina) in individuals with AIDS. Ganciclovir is also FDA-approved for the prevention of CMV disease in transplant recipients at risk for CMV diseases.

CMV diseases, including CMV retinitis, are opportunistic infections (OIs) of HIV. An OI is an infection that occurs more frequently or is more severe in people with weakened immune systems—such as people with HIV—than in people with healthy immune systems. To learn more about OIs, read the AIDSinfo What is an Opportunistic Infection? fact sheet.

How should this medicine be used?

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.

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.

Side effects

  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Shortness of breath
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal and stomach pain
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Back pain
  • Seizures
  • Swelling of legs
  • Itching
  • Decreased urine output


If an oral dose of Ganciclovir is missed, take the dose as soon as you remember it. If it is almost time for the next dose, skip the missed dose and take the next dose. Do not double the dose to make up for the missed one. Since the intravenous form of this medicine is usually administered by a qualified healthcare professional in the clinical or hospital setting, the likelihood of missing a dose is very low. Gel: If the dose Ganciclovir gel is missed, instill it as soon as you remember. Skip the missed dose if it is almost time for the next scheduled dose. Do not use extra medicine to make up for the missed dose. Seek emergency medical treatment or contact the doctor in case of an overdose.

General Instructions

Use Ganciclovir exactly as instructed by the doctor. Do not use larger or smaller amounts than prescribed. Ensure that the course of treatment is completed. Report any adverse effects to the doctor on priority. Do not stop the use of this medicine without consulting your doctor.


Capsules should be stored in well-closed containers. Vials of powder for injection should be stored below 25°C. Infusion solutions may be stored for up to 24 hours at 4°C.

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