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What are the most important things to know about stavudine?

Stavudine can cause serious, life-threatening side effects. These include buildup of lactic acid in the blood (lactic acidosis), liver problems, and inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis).

The risk of lactic acidosis may be higher if you have liver problems, are female, are pregnant, are overweight, or have been treated for a long time with other HIV medicines. Some pregnant women who were taking both stavudine and didanosine (another HIV medicine) died after developing lactic acidosis. For more information about lactic acidosis and its risk factors, read the AIDSinfo  fact sheet on HIV and Lactic Acidosis.

How should I take stavudine?

Stavudine (brand name: Zerit) comes in capsule form in the following strengths:

  • 15-mg capsules
  • 20-mg capsules
  • 30-mg capsules
  • 40-mg capsules

Stavudine also comes as a 1-mg/mL oral solution for those who have trouble swallowing capsules. A pharmacist prepares the stavudine oral solution by mixing stavudine powder with purified water.

Take stavudine according to your health care provider’s instructions.


This drug is used with other HIV medications to help control HIV infection. It helps to decrease the amount of HIV in your body so your immune system can work better. This lowers your chance of getting HIV complications (such as new infections, cancer) and improves your quality of life. Stavudine belongs to a class of drugs known as nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTI).

How to use Stavudine

Read the Medication Guide and the Patient Information Leaflet provided by your pharmacist before you start using stavudine and each time you get a refill. If you have any questions, consult your doctor or pharmacist.

Take this medication by mouth with or without food, usually every 12 hours or as directed by your doctor.

What are the side effects of stavudine?

The most severe side effects are:

  • a decrease in blood cells,
  • muscle pain (myopathy),
  • pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas),
  • liver failure, and
  • metabolic disturbance (lactic acidosis).

How should stavudine be stored?

Stavudine capsules:

  • Store stavudine capsules at 59°F to 86°F (15°C to 30°C).
  • Keep stavudine capsules in the container that they came in and keep the container tightly closed.
  • Throw away capsules that are no longer needed or expired (out of date).