Vancomycin

Vancomycin is used to treat serious infections caused by certain types of bacteria. For most infections, it is given by intravenous infusion, and its use must be monitored closely with blood tests.

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Pharmacist Nazley Mohammadi, PharmD overviews the uses and common side effects of Vancomycin
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Pharmacist Nazley Mohammadi, PharmD overviews the uses and common side effects of Vancomycin
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Vancomycin Overview

Updated: 

Vancomycin is a prescription medication used to treat severe or serious infections caused by certain types of bacteria.

Vancomycin belongs to a group of drugs called glycopeptide antibiotics. These work by killing the bacteria that cause infections.

This medication comes in capsule form, which is used to treat an infection of the colon that often occurs after treatment with other antibiotics. Oral vancomycin is taken 3 to 4 times a day for 7 to 10 days. When taken orally, vancomycin will not kill bacteria or treat infections in any part of the body other than the colon.

For most infections, including those of the lungs, skin, bone, blood, and heart valves, vancomycin is administered by infusion directly into a vein by a health care professional in a health care setting. You will need regular blood tests to make sure that you are receiving the right amount of vancomycin.

Common side effects of vancomycin include lightheadedness or faintness, upset stomach, itching, difficulty breathing, or a rash on the face, neck, chest, or upper arms or legs.

Vancomycin can also cause dizziness. Do not drive or operate heavy machinery until you know how vancomycin affects you.

Patient Ratings for Vancomycin

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  • Other
  • Bacterial Infections
  • Endocarditis, Bacterial
  • Enterocolitis, Pseudomembranous
  • Meningitis, Pneumococcal
  • Neutropenia
  • Postoperative Complications
  • Staphylococcal Infections

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  • A couple weeks
  • A month or so
  • A few months
  • A year or so
  • Two years or more

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Vancomycin Cautionary Labels

precautions

Uses of Vancomycin

Oral:

Vancomycin is a prescription medication used to treat diarrhea and infections of the colon that occur after antibiotic use.

Injectable:

Vancomycin is a prescription medication used to treat severe or serious infections caused by certain types of bacteria.

This medication may be prescribed for other uses. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.

Vancomycin Brand Names

Vancomycin may be found in some form under the following brand names:

Vancomycin Drug Class

Vancomycin is part of the drug class:

Side Effects of Vancomycin

Serious side effects have been reported with vancomycin. See the “Vancomycin Precautions” section.

Oral:

The most common side effect of oral vancomycin is upset stomach.

Injectable:

Common side effects of vancomycin administered into a vein include:

  • lightheadedness or faintness
  • flushing
  • back and neck muscle pain
  • a rash on the face, neck, chest, or upper arms or legs
  • itching
  • difficulty breathing

This is not a complete list of vancomycin side effects. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.

Tell your doctor if you have any side effect that bothers you or that does not go away.

Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

Vancomycin Interactions

Tell your doctor about all the medicines you take, including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements. Especially tell your doctor if you take:

This is not a complete list of vancomycin drug interactions. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.

Vancomycin Precautions

Oral:

Serious side effects have been reported with oral vancomycin including the following:

  • hypersensitivity (severe allergic reaction). Tell your healthcare provider about any signs or symptoms of hypersensitivity, which include the following:
    • chest pain
    • swelling of the face, eyes, lips, tongue, arms, or legs
    • difficulty breathing or swallowing
    • rash

Also tell your healthcare provider if you have any of the following signs or symptoms of a severe reaction to vancomycin:

  • redness of the skin above the waist
  • pain and muscle tightness of the chest and back
  • unusual bleeding or bruising
  • fainting
  • dizziness
  • blurred vision
  • ringing in the ears

Injectable:

Serious side effects have been reported with vancomycin including the following:

  • Infusion reactions. Infusion reactions can occur with this medication. Tell your doctor or get medical help right away if you get any of these symptoms during or after an infusion this medication:
    • hives (red itchy welts) or rash
    • itching
    • swelling of your lips, tongue, throat or face
    • sudden cough
    • shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, or wheezing
    • weakness
    • dizziness or feel faint
    • palpitations (feeling like your heart is racing or fluttering)
    • chest pain

Tell your health care provider if you experience upset stomach or vomiting that does nto go away, or if you experience any of the following signs or symptoms of a severe reaction to vancomycin:

  • vertigo
  • ringing in the ears
  • hearing loss

Vancomycin can cause dizziness. Do not drive or operate heavy machinery until you know how vancomycin affects you.

Do not take vancomycin if you are allergic to vancomycin or to any of its ingredients.

Vancomycin Food Interactions

Medications can interact with certain foods. In some cases, this may be harmful and your doctor may advise you to avoid certain foods. In the case of vancomycin, there are no specific foods that you must exclude from your diet when receiving this medication.

Inform MD

Before taking vancomycin, tell your doctor about all of your medical conditions. Especially tell your doctor if you:

  • are allergic to vancomycin or to any of its ingredients
  • have or have had kidney disease
  • have or have had vertigo, hearing loss, or ringing in the ears
  • have or have had inflammatory bowel disease
  • are pregnant or breastfeeding

Tell your doctor about all the medicines you take including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.

Vancomycin and Pregnancy

Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant.

The FDA categorizes medications based on safety for use during pregnancy. Five categories - A, B, C, D, and X - are used to classify the possible risks to an unborn baby when a medication is taken during pregnancy.

Oral vancomycin falls into category B. There are no well-done studies that have been done in humans with vancomycin. In animal studies, pregnant animals were given this medication, and the babies did not show any medical issues related to this medication.

Injectable vancomycin falls into category C. There are no well-controlled studies that have been done in pregnant women. Injectable vancomycin should be used during pregnancy only if the possible benefit outweighs the possible risk to the unborn baby.

Vancomycin and Lactation

Tell your doctor if you are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed.

Vancomycin has been detected in human breast milk. Because of the possibility for adverse reactions in nursing infants from vancomycin, a choice should be made whether to stop nursing or to stop use of this medication. The importance of the drug to the mother should be considered.

Vancomycin Usage

Take vancomycin exactly as prescribed.

Oral:

This medication comes in capsule form, which is used to treat an infection of the colon that often occurs after treatment with other antibiotics. Oral vancomycin is taken 3 to 4 times a day for 7 to 10 days.

Injectable:

This medication is also available in an injectable form to be given directly into a vein (IV) by a healthcare professional.

If you miss a dose, take the missed dose as soon as you remember. If it is almost time for the next dose, skip the missed dose and take your next dose at the regular time. Do not take 2 doses of vancomycin at the same time.

Vancomycin Dosage

Take this medication exactly as prescribed by your doctor. Follow the directions on your prescription label carefully.

Oral:

The dose your doctor recommends may be based on the following:

  • the condition being treated
  • how you respond to this medication

For adults, the recommended dose of vancomycin for treating C. difficile-associated diarrhea is 125 mg administered orally 4 times daily for 10 days. The recommended dose of vancomycin for treating staphylococcal enterocolitis is 500 mg to 2 g administered orally in 3 or 4 divided doses for 7 to 10 days.

Injectable:

The dose your doctor recommends may be based on the following:

  • the condition being treated
  • other medical conditions you have
  • other medications you are taking
  • how you respond to this medication
  • your weight

The recommended dose of vancomycin for the treatment of serious infections is based on patient weight and kidney function. Blood levels of vancomycin will be monitored to ensure that the patient is receiving the right amount of vancomycin.

Vancomycin Overdose

If you take too much vancomycin, call your healthcare provider or local Poison Control Center, or seek emergency medical attention right away.

If vancomycin is administered by a healthcare provider in a medical setting, it is unlikely that an overdose will occur. However, if overdose is suspected, seek emergency medical attention.

Other Requirements

Oral:

  • Store vancomycin capsules at room temperature.
  • Keep this and all medicines out of the reach of children.

Injectable:

  • Keep all appointments with your doctor and the laboratory. Your doctor will order certain lab tests to check your body's response to vancomycin.