Health Encyclopedia > Medications

clarithromycin

Pronunciation: kla RITH roe MYE sin

Brand: Biaxin, Biaxin XL, Biaxin XL-Pak

Biaxin 250 mg

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Biaxin 500 mg

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Biaxin XL 500 mg

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Clarithromycin 250 mg-ROX

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Clarithromycin 250 mg-TEV

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Clarithromycin 500 mg ER-TEV

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Clarithromycin 500 mg-TEV

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Clarithromycin ER 500 mg-AND

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What is the most important information I should know about clarithromycin?

Multum donot

You should not use this medication if you are allergic to clarithromycin, or to similar medicines such as azithromycin (Zithromax), erythromycin (E.E.S., EryPed, Ery-Tab, Erythrocin, Pediazole), or telithromycin (Ketek).

Multum emt

You should not use this medication if you have a life-threatening heart rhythm disorder, a history of Long QT syndrome, if you have ever had jaundice or liver problems caused by taking clarithromycin, or if you have liver or kidney disease and are also taking colchicine (Colcrys).

Multum donot

Do not use clarithromycin if you are also using any of the drugs listed below. They can interact with clarithromycin and cause serious or life-threatening side effects:

  • cisapride (Propulsid);
  • pimozide (Orap);
  • lovastatin (Mevacor, Altoprev, Advicor) or simvastatin (Zocor, Simcor, Vytorin); or
  • ergot medicine such as ergotamine (Ergomar, Ergostat, Cafergot, Ercaf, Wigraine), or dihydroergotamine (D.H.E. 45, Migranal Nasal Spray).
Multum finish

Take this medicine for the full prescribed length of time. Your symptoms may improve before the infection is completely cleared. Skipping doses may also increase your risk of further infection that is resistant to antibiotics. Clarithromycin will not treat a viral infection such as the common cold or flu.

What is clarithromycin?

Clarithromycin is a macrolide antibiotic. Clarithromycin fights bacteria in your body.

Clarithromycin is used to treat many different types of bacterial infections affecting the skin and respiratory system. Clarithromycin is also used together with other medicines to treat stomach ulcers caused by Helicobacter pylori.

Clarithromycin may also be used for purposes not listed in this medication guide.

What should I discuss with my healthcare provider before taking clarithromycin?

Multum donot

You should not use this medication if you are allergic to clarithromycin or to similar medicines such as azithromycin (Zithromax), erythromycin (E.E.S., EryPed, Ery-Tab, Erythrocin, Pediazole), or telithromycin (Ketek).

Multum emt

You should not use this medication if you have a life-threatening heart rhythm disorder, a history of Long QT syndrome, if you have ever had jaundice or liver problems caused by taking clarithromycin, or if you have liver or kidney disease and are also taking colchicine (Colcrys).

Multum donot

Do not use clarithromycin if you are also using any of the drugs listed below. They can interact with clarithromycin and cause serious or life-threatening side effects:

  • cisapride (Propulsid);
  • pimozide (Orap);
  • lovastatin (Mevacor, Altoprev, Advicor) or simvastatin (Zocor, Simcor, Vytorin); or
  • ergot medicine such as ergotamine (Ergomar, Ergostat, Cafergot, Ercaf, Wigraine), or dihydroergotamine (D.H.E. 45, Migranal Nasal Spray).

To make sure you can safely take clarithromycin, tell your doctor if you have any of these other conditions:

  • liver disease;
  • kidney disease;
  • myasthenia gravis;
  • porphyria;
  • an electrolyte imbalance (such as low levels of potassium or magnesium in your blood);
  • a family history of Long QT syndrome; or
  • if you take any of these heart rhythm medications -- amiodarone (Cordarone, Pacerone), disopyramide (Norpace), dofetilide (Tikosyn), flecainide (Tambocor), dronedarone (Multaq), ibutilide (Corvert), mexiletine (Mexitil), procainamide (Procan, Pronestyl), propafenone, (Rythmol), quinidine (Quin-G), or sotalol (Betapace).
Multum nopreg

FDA pregnancy category C. It is not known whether clarithromycin will harm an unborn baby. Before you take clarithromycin, tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant while using this medication.

Multum nobrfeed

It is not known whether clarithromycin passes into breast milk or if it could harm a nursing baby. Do not use this medication without telling your doctor if you are breast-feeding a baby.

Multum nochild

Do not give this medicine to a child younger than 6 months of age.

Older adults may be more likely to have side effects on heart rhythm, including a life-threatening fast heart rate.

How should I take clarithromycin?

Take exactly as prescribed by your doctor. Do not take in larger or smaller amounts or for longer than recommended. Follow the directions on your prescription label.

You may take clarithromycin tablets and oral suspension (liquid) with or without food.

Multum food

Clarithromycin extended-release tablets (Biaxin XL) should be taken with food.

Multum nocrush

Do not crush, chew, or break an extended-release tablet. Swallow it whole. Breaking the pill may cause too much of the drug to be released at one time.

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Shake the oral suspension (liquid) well just before you measure a dose. Measure the liquid with a special dose-measuring spoon or medicine cup, not with a regular table spoon. If you do not have a dose-measuring device, ask your pharmacist for one.

Multum finish

Take this medicine for the full prescribed length of time. Your symptoms may improve before the infection is completely cleared. Skipping doses may also increase your risk of further infection that is resistant to antibiotics. Clarithromycin will not treat a viral infection such as the common cold or flu.

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Store at room temperature away from moisture and heat. Do not keep the oral liquid in a refrigerator.

What happens if I miss a dose?

Take the missed dose as soon as you remember. Skip the missed dose if it is almost time for your next scheduled dose. Do not take extra medicine to make up the missed dose.

What happens if I overdose?

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Seek emergency medical attention or call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222.

Overdose symptoms may include severe stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.

What should I avoid while taking clarithromycin?

Antibiotic medicines can cause diarrhea, which may be a sign of a new infection. If you have diarrhea that is watery or bloody, stop taking clarithromycin and call your doctor. Do not use anti-diarrhea medicine unless your doctor tells you to.

What are the possible side effects of clarithromycin?

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Get emergency medical help if you have any of these signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficult breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

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Call your doctor at once if you have a serious side effect such as:

  • headache with chest pain and severe dizziness, fast or pounding heartbeats, shortness of breath, fainting;
  • diarrhea that is watery or bloody;
  • fever, swollen glands, body aches, flu symptoms, new or worsening cough;
  • skin rash, easy bruising or bleeding, severe tingling, numbness, pain, muscle weakness;
  • confusion, vomiting, swelling, rapid weight gain, urinating less than usual or not at all;
  • problems with your hearing; or
  • severe skin reaction -- fever, sore throat, swelling in your face or tongue, burning in your eyes, skin pain, followed by a red or purple skin rash that spreads (especially in the face or upper body) and causes blistering and peeling.
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Clarithromycin may also cause severe liver symptoms. Stop taking clarithromycin and call your doctor at once if you have any of these liver symptoms:

  • low fever, itching;
  • nausea, upper stomach pain, loss of appetite;
  • dark urine, clay colored stools; or
  • jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes).

Less serious side effects may include:

  • upset stomach, vomiting, diarrhea;
  • unusual or unpleasant taste in your mouth;
  • tooth discoloration;
  • headache;
  • mild itching or rash; or
  • vaginal itching or discharge.

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

What other drugs will affect clarithromycin?

Tell your doctor about all other medicines you use, especially:

  • a blood thinner such as warfarin (Coumadin, Jantoven);
  • colchicine (Colcrys);
  • itraconazole (Sporanox);
  • omeprazole (Prilosec);
  • ranitidine bismuth citrate (Tritec);
  • sildenafil (Viagra), tadalafil (Adcirca, Cialis), or vardenafil (Levitra);
  • theophylline (Elixophyllin, Theo-24, Theochron, Uniphyl);
  • tolterodine (Detrol);
  • any other antibiotic, especially rifabutin (Mycobutin), rifapentine (Priftin), or rifampin (Rifater, Rifadin, Rifamate);
  • cholesterol-lowering medicines such as atorvastatin (Lipitor, Caduet), pravastatin (Pravachol), and others;
  • drugs that weaken your immune system, such as cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune, Gengraf), tacrolimus (Prograf), or steroids;
  • heart medication such as amlodipine (Norvasc, Caduet, Exforge, Lotrel, Tekamlo, Tribenzor, Twynsta, Amturnide), digoxin (digitalis, Lanoxicaps, Lanoxin), diltiazem (Cartia, Cardizem), verapamil (Calan, Covera, Isoptin, Verelan), and others;
  • HIV medicines such as atazanavir (Reyataz), efavirenz (Sustiva, Atripla), nevirapine (Viramune), ritonavir (Norvir, Kaletra), saquinavir (Invirase), or zidovudine (Retrovir);
  • insulin or oral diabetes medication;
  • a sedative such as alprazolam (Xanax), midazolam (Versed), or triazolam (Halcion); or
  • seizure medications such as carbamazepine (Carbatrol, Equetro, Tegretol), phenytoin (Dilantin), and valproic acid (Depakote, Depakene).
Multum donot

This list is not complete and there are many other drugs that can interact with clarithromycin. Tell your doctor about all medications you use. This includes prescription, over-the-counter, vitamin, and herbal products. Do not start a new medication without telling your doctor. Keep a list of all your medicines and show it to any healthcare provider who treats you.

Where can I get more information?

Your pharmacist can provide more information about clarithromycin.


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.

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