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What is ganciclovir?

Ganciclovir (also called Cytovene®) is a medicine used to prevent or treat infections caused by cytomegalovirus (also called CMV). It is available as a clear liquid given into a vein (IV).

Ganciclovir can pose a health hazard to caregivers. All caregivers should take safety precautions while giving this drug. For 48 hours after this drug is given, the patient’s body fluids can contain the drug. During that 48-hour period, caregivers should follow safety guidelines when handling the patient’s vomit, blood, urine, and bowel movements, including diapers. These guidelines include wearing gloves when cleaning up body fluids. For a complete list of safety precautions, see “Do you know… Protecting caregivers from drug hazards.”

Possible side effects of ganciclovir


  • Nausea, lack of appetite
  • Rash

Late (usually more than a day after treatment starts)

  • Low blood counts
  • Hands or feet feel numb or tingle
  • Decreased kidney function
  • Changes in liver function
  • High blood pressure

Call the doctor right away if you have any of the following side effects:

  • Feeling confused
  • Seizures
  • Headache
  • Severe skin rash
  • Feeling very weak or tired
  • Eye pain or seeing flashes of light or sparks
  • Fever, chills, sore throat, or flu-like symptoms
  • Unusual bleeding or bruising

These are the most common side effects, but there may be others. Please report all side effects to the doctor or nurse.

In case of a severe side effect or reaction, call the doctor, nurse, or pharmacist at 901-595-3300. If you are outside the Memphis area, dial toll-free 1-866-2STJUDE (1-866-278-5833), and press 0 once the call is connected.

Special instructions for ganciclovir

  • Drinking plenty of liquids lessens the chance of kidney damage while you are receiving ganciclovir. The doctor or nurse will tell you how much liquid you should drink.
  • Blood tests will be done to check for changes in kidney or liver function and to monitor blood counts while you are receiving ganciclovir.
  • Ganciclovir can cause birth defects. If you are sexually active, you should use 2 forms of birth control while you are receiving ganciclovir and for 90 days after the ganciclovir therapy ends.
  • If you are outpatient receiving IV ganciclovir by a portable pump (such as an Eclipse®):
    • Finish all doses of ganciclovir as instructed by your doctor.
    • Store the ganciclovir in the refrigerator or on ice.
    • Place the ganciclovir dose at room temperature about one (1) hour before the dose is given.
    • See “Do You Know… Using the Eclipse medicine device” for details.
    • Wear gloves while handling and connecting the ganciclovir medicine device.


This document is not intended to take the place of the care and attention of your personal physician or other professional medical services. Our aim is to promote active participation in your care and treatment by providing information and education. Questions about individual health concerns or specific treatment options should be discussed with your physician.

St. Jude complies with health care-related federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex.

ATTENTION: If you speak another language, assistance services, free of charge, are available to you. Call 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).

ATENCIÓN: si habla español, tiene a su disposición servicios gratuitos de asistencia lingüística. Llame al 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).

تنبيه: إذا كنت تتحدث باللغة العربية فيمكنك الاستعانة بخدمات المساعدة اللغوية المتوفرة لك مجانا. .يرجى الاتصال بالرقم. 5833-278-866-1  (الهاتف النصي: 1040-595-901-1).