Clarithromycin

Clarithromycin is an antibiotic and treats infection. Finish taking all of your medication as directed. Even if you feel better, do not stop taking medication unless your doctor tells you to stop.

Clarithromycin Overview

Reviewed: March 27, 2013
Updated: 

Clarithromycin is an antibiotic medication commonly prescribed to treat strep throat, sinus infections, bronchitis, pneumonia, skin infections, ear infections, as well as other bacterial infections. Clarithromycin belongs to a group of drugs called macrolide antibiotics which work by inhibiting protein synthesis, stopping bacterial growth and reproduction.

This medication comes in tablet, extended-release tablet, and liquid forms. Clarithromycin is usually taken once or twice daily, with or without food. The extended-release tablets are usually taken once daily, with food.

Common side effects of clarithromycin include nausea and diarrhea.

Patient Ratings for Clarithromycin

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What are you taking Clarithromycin for?

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  • Other
  • Bacterial Infections
  • Bronchitis
  • Chlamydia Infections
  • Duodenal Ulcer
  • Endocarditis, Bacterial
  • Haemophilus Infections
  • Helicobacter Infections
  • Mycobacterium Infections, Nontuberculous
  • Otitis Media
  • Pneumonia, Mycoplasma
  • Protozoan Infections
  • Sinusitis
  • Skin Diseases, Infectious
  • Staphylococcal Infections
  • Streptococcal Infections
  • Tonsillitis

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  • Less than a week
  • A couple weeks
  • A month or so
  • A few months
  • A year or so
  • Two years or more

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Uses of Clarithromycin

Clarithromycin is a prescription antibiotic medication used to treat the following:

Adults:

  • strep throat
  • tonsillitis
  • sinus infections
  • bronchitis
  • pneumonia
  • skin infections
  • Mycobacterial infections due to Mycobacterium avium, or Mycobacterium intracellulare
  • Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection in people with duodenal ulcers (intestinal ulcers), when used in combination with other medications 

Children:

  • strep throat
  • tonsillitis
  • sinus infections
  • pneumonia
  • ear infections
  • Mycobacterial infections due to Mycobacterium avium, or Mycobacterium intracellulare
 
Clarithromycin extended-release tablets are approved to treat the following infections in adults:
  • Sinus infections
  • Bronchitis
  • Pneumonia

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

Clarithromycin Brand Names

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

Clarithromycin Drug Class

Clarithromycin is part of the drug class:

Side Effects of Clarithromycin

Some clarithromycin side effects can be serious. See "Drug Precautions" section.

Most side effects are mild. During clinical trials, the most frequently reported side effects of clarithromycin in adults include:

  • diarrhea
  • nausea
  • abnormal taste
  • indigestion
  • stomach pain or discomfort
  • headache (2%)

In children, the most frequently reported side effects were:

  • diarrhea
  • vomiting 
  • stomach pain 
  • rash
  • headache 

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

Tell your doctor if you have any side effects that bother you or that do 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.

Clarithromycin 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:

  • medications that use the p-glycoprotein transporter such as digoxin (Lanoxin), loperamide (Imodium), quinidine (Cardioquine, Quinact, Duraquin), vinblastine (Velban), fexofenadine (Allegra), indinavir (Crixivan), colchicine (Colcrys), topotecan (Hycamtin), and paclitaxel (Abraxane, Onxol, Taxol)
  • medications that use the enzyme CYP3A4 such as budesonide (Entocort), cyclosporine (Neoral, Gengraf, Sandimmune), darifenacin (Enablex), dihydroergotamine (Migranal), fentanyl (Abstral, Fentora, Onsolis, Actiq), pimozide (Orap), quinidine (Cardioquin, Duraquin, Quinact), sirolimus (Rapamune), tacrolimus (Prograf), terfenadine (Seldane), fluticasone (Flovent HFA, Flonase), eletriptan (Relpax), lovastatin (Mevacor), quetiapine (Seroquel), sildenafil (Viagra, Revatio), and simvastatin (Zocor)
  • drugs that can cause an arrhythmia called Torsades des Point such as:
    • certain anti-arrhythmia medications including procainamide, sotalol (Betapace), quinidine, dofetilide (Tikosyn), amiodarone (Nexterone, Pacerone, Cordarone), ibutilide (Corvert)
    • certain fluoroquinolone antibiotics including: levofloxacin (Levaquin), ciprofloxacin (Cipro), gatifloxacin (Zymar), moxifloxacin (Avelox)
    • certain azole antifungals including: ketoconazole (Nizoral), itraconazole (Sporanox, Onmel)
    • certain antidepressants including: amitriptyline, desipramine (Norpramin), imipramine (Tofranil), doxepin (Silenor), fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem, Symbyax), sertraline (Zoloft), venlafaxine (Effexor XR)
    • certain antipsychotics including: haloperidol (Haldol), droperidol (Inapsine), quetiapine (Seroquel XR), thioridazine, ziprasidone (Geodon)
    • other medications including: cisapride, sumatriptan (Treximet, Imitrex, Alsuma, Zecuity), zolmitriptan (Zomig, arsenic trioxide (Trisenox), dolasetron (Anzemet), and methadone (Methadone, Dolophine)

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

Clarithromycin Precautions

Serious side effects can occur with clarithromycin use. While these side effects do not commonly occur, they are potentially dangerous and should be reported immediately to your healthcare provider.

Clarithromycin may cause a serious condition known as QT prolongation, causing a change in the heart rhythm. The risk of QT prolongation may be increased if you have certain medical conditions or are taking other drugs that may affect the heart rhythm. Before receiving clarithromycin, tell your doctor or pharmacist if you have heart problems such as QT prolongation, heart failure, or slow heartbeat.

Low levels of potassium or magnesium in the blood may also increase your risk of QT prolongation. This risk may increase if you use diuretics ("water pills"). Severe sweating, diarrhea, or vomiting can also increase your risk of QT prolongation. 

Clarithromycin should be avoided for people receiving certain heart medications. Talk to your doctor if you have coronary artery disease, receive medications for irregular heart rate, or if you have any other heart condition.

Clarithromycin, like other antibiotics, can cause Clostridium difficile associated diarrhea. When certain bacteria grow too rapidly in the colon, this serious condition can occur. Tell your doctor if you experience bloody, watery diarrhea.

This medication can cause allergic reactions, which may be severe. Signs of allergic reaction include:

  • rash
  • hives
  • itching
  • swelling
  • difficulty breathing

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

Clarithromycin 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 clarithromycin, there are no specific foods that you must exclude from your diet when receiving this medication.

Inform MD

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

  • are allergic to clarithromycin or to any of its ingredients
  • have heart problems, such as coronary heart disease or an abnormal heart beat
  • have liver problems
  • have kidney problems
  • have a condition called myasthenia gravis (a condition that causes weakness of muscles)
  • are pregnant or plan to become pregnant
  • are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed

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

Clarithromycin 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.

Clarithromycin falls into category C. In animal studies, pregnant animals were given this medication and had some babies born with problems. No well-controlled studies have been done in humans. Therefore, this medication may be used if the potential benefits to the mother outweigh the potential risks to the unborn child.

Clarithromycin and Lactation

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

Clarithromycin has been detected in human breast milk. Because of the possibility for adverse reactions in nursing infants from clarithromycin, 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.

Clarithromycin Usage

Take clarithromycin exactly as directed. Follow the directions on your prescription label carefully, and ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain any part you do not understand.

Clarithromycin comes as a tablet, an extended-release (long-acting) tablet, and a suspension (liquid) to take by mouth.

  • The regular tablet and liquid are usually taken with or without food twice daily (every 12 hours), with a full glass of water.
  • The extended-release tablet is usually taken with food once daily, swallowed whole. Do not chew, crush or split them.
  • Take clarithromycin at around the same time(s) every day.
  • Clarithromycin is usually taken for 7 to 14 days. Your doctor may tell you to take clarithromycin for a longer time depending on your condition.  
  • Do not take more or less of it or take it more often than prescribed by your doctor.
  • Shake the suspension well before each use to mix the medication evenly.

After the first few days of treatment, you should begin to feel better. Take clarithromycin until you finish the prescription, even if you feel better. If you stop taking clarithromycin too soon, or skip doses, your infection may not be completely treated and the bacteria may become resistant to antibiotics.

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 two doses of Biaxin at the same time.

Clarithromycin Dosage

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

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 age
  • your gender

The recommended dose range of clarithromycin for the treatment of:

  • Bronchitis: 250 to 500 mg by mouth every 12 hours for 7 to 14 days 
  • Community-acquired pneumonia: 250 mg by mouth every 12 hours for 7 to 14 days or 1,000 mg by mouth once daily for 7 days (dosing depends on the bacteria causing pneumonia)
  • H. pylori eradication: 500 mg by mouth twice daily for 10 to 14 days. For treatment of H. pylori, clarithromycin will often be combined with other medications. 
  • Mycobacterial infection: 500 mg by mouth twice daily
  • Pharyngitis or tonsillitis: 250 mg by mouth every 12 hours for 10 days
  • Sinusitis: 500 mg by mouth every 12 hours for 14 days
  • Uncomplicated skin and skin structure infection: 250 mg by mouth every 12 hours for 7 to 14 days

Clarithromycin Overdose

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

Other Requirements

  • Store clarithromycin tablets and liquid suspension at room temperature (68°F to 77°F).
  • Shake clarithromycin oral suspension well before each use. 
  • Keep this and all medicines out of the reach of children.