Drug information

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Other Names
Biaxin, Biaxin Extended Release, Biaxin XL, clarithromycin extended release
Drug Class
Antibacterial (Macrolide)
What is clarithromycin?What is clarithromycin?

What is clarithromycin?

Clarithromycin is an antibiotic prescription medicine approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat certain bacterial infections—including community-acquired pneumonia, throat infections (pharyngitis), acute sinus infections, and others—that are caused by specific types of bacteria. Clarithromycin is also FDA-approved to both prevent and treat Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC) infection, another type of bacterial infection.

Disseminated MAC infection and certain bacterial respiratory diseases (such as community-acquired pneumonia) can be opportunistic infections (OIs) of HIV. An OI is an infection that occurs more frequently or is more severe in people with weakened immune systems—such as people with HIV—than in people with healthy immune systems.

To learn more about OIs, read the HIVinfo What is an Opportunistic Infection? fact sheet.

How is clarithromycin used in people with HIV?How is clarithromycin used in people with HIV?

How is clarithromycin used in people with HIV?

The Guidelines for the Prevention and Treatment of Opportunistic Infections in Adults and Adolescents with HIV include recommendations on the uses of clarithromycin in people with HIV to:

Treat:

  • Disseminated MAC infection and certain bacterial respiratory diseases (such as community-acquired pneumonia)
  • Infections of the bloodstream and bone caused by Bartonella bacteria (also called bartonellosis)
Prevent:
  • Disseminated MAC infection

The recommended uses may not always be consistent with FDA-approved uses of clarithromycin. See the Guidelines for complete information on recommended uses of clarithromycin in adults and adolescents with HIV. Clarithromycin may have other recommended uses not listed above.

What should I tell my health care provider before taking clarithromycin?What should I tell my health care provider before taking clarithromycin?

What should I tell my health care provider before taking clarithromycin?

Before taking clarithromycin, tell your health care provider:

  • If you are allergic to clarithromycin or any other medicines.
  • About any medical conditions you have or have had, including coronary artery disease or an irregular heartbeat, especially a problem called "QT prolongation".
  • About anything that could affect your ability to take medicines, such as difficulty swallowing or remembering to take pills. A liquid form of clarithromycin is available for people who have difficulty swallowing pills.
  • If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. Clarithromycin should not be used during pregnancy except when there are no other treatment options. Talk to your health care provider about the risks and benefits of taking clarithromycin during pregnancy. The Guidelines for the Prevention and Treatment of Opportunistic Infections in Adults and Adolescents with HIV may include other recommendations on the use of clarithromycin during pregnancy. Please refer to these guidelines for additional information.
  • If you are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. For women with HIV in the United States, the Guideline does not recommend breastfeeding. Before your baby is born, or if you are already breastfeeding, talk to your health care provider to discuss alternative options for feeding your baby.
  • About other prescription and nonprescription medicines, vitamins, nutritional supplements, and herbal products you are taking or plan to take. Clarithromycin may affect the way other medicines or products work, and other medicines or products may affect how clarithromycin works. Ask your health care provider if there are interactions between clarithromycin and the other medicines you take.

Ask your health care provider about possible side effects from clarithromycin. Your health care provider will tell you what to do if you have side effects.

How should I take clarithromycin?How should I take clarithromycin?

How should I take clarithromycin?

Take clarithromycin according to your health care provider’s instructions. Your health care provider will tell you how much clarithromycin to take and when to take it. Before you start clarithromycin and each time you get a refill, read any printed information that comes with your medicine.

How should clarithromycin be stored?How should clarithromycin be stored?

How should clarithromycin be stored?

  • Store clarithromycin tablets at room temperature, 68°F to 77°F (20°C to 25°C). Protect the tablets from light.
  • Store clarithromycin granules for oral suspension below 77ºF (25ºC). After mixing clarithromycin granules with water as instructed by your health care provider or pharmacist, do not refrigerate the mixture (also called an oral suspension). Store the oral suspension between 59ºF and 86ºF (15ºC to 30ºC) and use within 14 days.
  • Keep clarithromycin in the container that it came in and keep the container tightly closed.
  • Do not use clarithromycin if the original seal over the container opening is broken or missing.
  • Throw away clarithromycin that is no longer needed or expired (out of date). Follow FDA guidelines on how to safely dispose of unused medicine.
  • Keep clarithromycin and all medicines out of reach of children.
Where can I find more information about clarithromycin?Where can I find more information about clarithromycin?

Where can I find more information about clarithromycin?

Last Reviewed: August, 2020