Clarithromycin | Side Effects, Dosage, Uses & More
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Generic Name:

clarithromycin, Oral tablet

All Brands

  • Biaxin
SECTION 1 of 5

Highlights for clarithromycin

Oral tablet
1

Clarithromycin is used to prevent and treat certain infections caused by bacteria.

2

This drug comes in the forms of a regular release tablet, extended-release tablet, and a suspension. You take all of these forms by mouth.

3

Clarithromycin is available as a brand-name drug called Biaxin. It’s also available as a generic drug.

4

The more common side effects of this drug include stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and an abnormal taste in your mouth.

5

In some cases, clarithromycin can cause serious side effects. These can include liver problems and QT prolongation (a heart rhythm issue that may cause fast, chaotic heartbeats).

IMPORTANT INFORMATION

Pregnancy

Tell your doctor if you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant. This drug can harm your unborn baby.

Liver problems

This drug may cause liver problems. Tell your doctor if you have symptoms of liver problems. These include dark-colored urine, itchiness, upper stomach pain, loss of appetite, or yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes.

QT prolongation

Clarithromycin may cause the heart rhythm problem QT prolongation. This condition may cause fast, chaotic heartbeats.

Diarrhea

Almost all antibiotics, including clarithromycin, can cause Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea. This disease may range from causing mild diarrhea to severe inflammation of your colon. This can be fatal (cause death). Call your doctor if you have diarrhea during or after treatment with this drug.

What is clarithromycin?

Clarithromycin is a prescription drug. It’s available as an oral tablet, oral extended-release tablet, and oral suspension. It’s also available in an intravenous (IV) form, which is only given by a healthcare provider.

Clarithromycin is available as a generic drug. Generic drugs usually cost less. In some cases, they may not be available in every strength or form as the brand-name version.

Clarithromycin may be used with other drugs (ethambutol, rifampin, amoxicillin, lansoprazole, omeprazole, or bismuth) to treat stomach ulcers or mycobacterial infections.

Why it's used

Clarithromycin is used to prevent and treat certain bacterial infections caused by bacteria.

How it works

Clarithromycin belongs to a class of drugs called antibiotics (macrolides).

More Details

How it works

Clarithromycin belongs to a class of drugs called antibiotics (macrolides). A class of drugs is a group of medications that work in a similar way. These drugs are often used to treat similar conditions.

Clarithromycin works by stopping the bacteria that are causing an infection from multiplying. 

This drug should only be used to treat or prevent bacterial infections. It shouldn’t be used to treat viruses such as the common cold.

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SECTION 2 of 5

clarithromycin Side Effects

Oral tablet

More common side effects

The more common side effects of clarithromycin can include:

  • stomach pain

  • diarrhea

  • nausea

  • vomiting

  • abnormal taste in your mouth

If these effects are mild, they may go away within a few days or a couple of weeks. If they’re more severe or don’t go away, talk to your doctor or pharmacist

Serious side effects

Call your doctor right away if you have serious side effects. Call 9-1-1 if your symptoms feel life-threatening or if you think you’re having a medical emergency. Serious side effects and their symptoms can include the following:

  • Liver problems. Symptoms can include:

    • tiredness or weakness
    • loss of appetite
    • upper stomach pain
    • dark-colored urine
    • yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes
  • Heart rate problems. Symptoms can include:

    • fast or chaotic heartbeats
  • Allergic reactions. Symptoms can include:

    • hives or more severe skin reactions
    • trouble breathing
    • swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat
Pharmacist's Advice
Healthline Pharmacist Editorial Team

Clarithromycin doesn’t cause drowsiness. 

Disclaimer: Our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and current information. However, because drugs affect each person differently, we cannot guarantee that this information includes all possible side effects. This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Always discuss possible side effects with a healthcare provider who knows your medical history.
SECTION 3 of 5

clarithromycin May Interact with Other Medications

Oral tablet

Clarithromycin can interact with other medications, vitamins, or herbs you may be taking. An interaction is when a substance changes the way a drug works. This can be harmful or prevent the drug from working well.

To help avoid interactions, your doctor should manage all of your medications carefully. Be sure to tell your doctor about all medications, vitamins, or herbs you’re taking. To find out how this drug might interact with something else you’re taking, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

Medications that might interact with this drug

Drugs you should not use with clarithromycin

Do not take these drugs with clarithromycin. Doing so can cause dangerous effects in the body. Examples of these drugs include:

  • Colchicine. If you have kidney or liver problems, you shouldn’t take colchicine and clarithromycin together. People with liver problems might have higher levels of colchicine in their body. Taking these drugs together can increase your risk of side effects.
  • Drugs used to treat cholesterol (statins), such as simvastatin and lovastatin. Taking these drugs with clarithromycin may cause severe muscle problems.
  • Sildenafil, tadalafil, and vardenafil. Taking these drugs with clarithromycin can cause their levels to build up in your body and cause more side effects.
  • Ergotamine and dihydroergotamine. Taking these drugs with clarithromycin may cause sudden narrowing of your blood vessels (vasospasm). It may also cause reduced blood flow to your arms and legs.
  • Pimozide. Taking this drug with clarithromycin may result in serious, abnormal heart rhythms.
  • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) drugs, such as atazanavir, lopinavir, nelfinavir, ritonavir, indinavir, and saquinavir. These drugs can build up in your body or cause clarithromycin to build up in your body. This may cause more side effects or cause either drug to not be as effective.
  • Hepatitis C virus infection drugs, such as boceprevir, ombitasvir, telaprevir, and paritaprevir. These drugs can build up in your body or cause clarithromycin to build up in your body. This may cause more side effects or cause either drug to not be as effective.
  • Fungal drugs, such as itraconazole, ketoconazole, and voriconazole. These drugs can build up in your body or cause clarithromycin to build up in your body. This may cause more side effects or cause either drug to not be as effective.
  • Antibiotics, such as telithromycin. These drugs can build up in your body or cause clarithromycin to build up in your body. This may cause more side effects or cause either drug to not be as effective.

Interactions that increase your risk of side effects

Taking clarithromycin with certain medications may cause more side effects. These drugs include:

  • Benzodiazepines, such as triazolam and midazolam. If you take these drugs together, you may feel more sedated and drowsy.
  • Insulin and certain oral diabetes drugs, such as nateglinide, pioglitazone, repaglinide, and rosiglitazone. You may have a significant decrease in your blood sugar levels. You may need to monitor your blood sugar levels closely while taking these drugs together.
  • Warfarin. You may have more bleeding. Your doctor will monitor you closely if you take these drugs together.
  • Drugs used to treat cholesterol (statins), such as atorvastatin and pravastatin. Taking these drugs together may cause muscle problems. Your doctor may change the dose of your statin if you need to take these drugs together.
  • Quinidine and disopyramide. Taking these drugs together may cause serious abnormal heart rhythms. Your doctor may monitor your heart rhythm and the levels of quinidine or disopyramide in your body.
  • Blood pressure drugs (calcium channel blockers), such as verapamil, amlodipine, diltiazem, and nifedipine. Taking these drugs together may cause a drop in blood pressure and kidney problems.
  • Theophylline. Your doctor may monitor your theophylline blood levels.
  • Carbamazepine. Your doctor may monitor your carbamazepine blood levels.
  • Digoxin. Your doctor may monitor your digoxin blood levels.

Interactions that can make your drugs less effective
  • When other drugs are less effective: When certain drugs are used with clarithromycin, they may not work as well. This is because the amount of these drugs in your body may be decreased. Examples of these drugs include:
    • Zidovudine. You should take clarithromycin and zidovudine at least 2 hours apart. 

Disclaimer: Our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and current information. However, because drugs interact differently in each person, we cannot guarantee that this information includes all possible interactions. This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Always speak with your healthcare provider about possible interactions with all prescription drugs, vitamins, herbs and supplements, and over-the-counter drugs that you are taking.
Clarithromycin warnings
kidney warning
People with kidney problems

This drug is broken down by your kidneys. If your kidneys don’t work as well, this drug may build up in your body. This can cause more side effects. If you have severe kidney problems, you may need a lower dose or you may need a different schedule.

myasthenia gravis warning
People with myasthenia gravis

If you have myasthenia gravis (a condition that causes muscle weakness), this drug may make your symptoms worse.

abnormal heart rhythm warning
People with a history of abnormal heart rythms

Talk to your doctor about whether this drug is safe for you. This drug may increase your risk of heart-related death.

pregnancy warning
Pregnant women

Clarithromycin is a category C pregnancy drug. That means two things:

  1. Research in animals has shown adverse effects to the fetus when the mother takes the drug.
  2. There haven’t been enough studies done in humans to be certain how the drug might affect the fetus.

Tell your doctor if you’re pregnant or plan to become pregnant. Clarithromycin should be used during pregnancy only if the potential benefit justifies the risk.

breast-feeding warning
Women who are breast-feeding

Clarithromycin passes into breast milk and may cause side effects in a child who is breast-fed.

Talk to your doctor if you breast-feed your child. You may need to decide whether to stop breast-feeding or stop taking this medication.

children warning
For children

This drug hasn't been shown to be safe and effective for people younger than 18 years for the treatment of acute exacerbation of chronic bronchitis and Helicobacter pylori infection and duodenal ulcer disease.

The safety of clarithromycin hasn’t been studied in people younger than 20 months with mycobacterium avian complex.

This drug hasn’t been studied in children younger than 6 months for other infections. It shouldn’t be used in children younger than 6 months.

allergy warning
Allergies

Clarithromycin can cause a severe allergic reaction. Symptoms can include:

  • hives
  • trouble breathing
  • swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat

Call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room if you develop these symptoms.

Don’t take this drug again if you’ve ever had an allergic reaction to it. Taking it again could be fatal (cause death).

SECTION 4 of 5

How to Take clarithromycin (Dosage)

Oral tablet

All possible dosages and drug forms may not be included here. Your dosage, drug form, and how often you take the drug will depend on:

  • your age
  • the condition being treated
  • how severe your condition is
  • other medical conditions you have
  • how you react to the first dose

What are you taking this medication for?

Acute sinusitis

Brand: Biaxin

Form: Oral tablet
Strengths: 250 mg and 500 mg
Form: Oral suspension
Strengths: 125 mg/5 mL and 250 mg/5 mL

Generic: clarithromycin

Form: Oral extended-release tablet
Strengths: 500 mg
Form: Oral tablet
Strengths: 250 mg, 500 mg
Form: Oral suspension
Strengths: 125 mg/5 mL and 250 mg/5 mL
Adult dosage (ages 18 years and older)

Oral tablet: 500 mg taken every 12 hours for 14 days

Extended-release oral tablet: 1000 mg taken every 24 hours for 14 days

Child dosage (ages 6 months–17 years)

Oral suspension: 7.5 mg/kg of body weight taken every 12 hours for 10 days. The oral suspension form makes it easier for your child to swallow the medication.

Child dosage (ages 0–5 months)

It hasn’t been confirmed that this drug is safe and effective for use in people younger than 6 months.

Special considerations

People with kidney problems: If your creatinine clearance (a marker of kidney function) is less than 30 mL/min, your doctor will give you one half the standard dose.

Acute exacerbation of chronic bronchitis

Brand: Biaxin

Form: Oral tablet
Strengths: 250 mg and 500 mg
Form: Oral suspension
Strengths: 125 mg/5 mL and 250 mg/5 mL

Generic: clarithromycin

Form: Oral extended-release tablet
Strengths: 500 mg
Form: Oral tablet
Strengths: 250 mg, 500 mg
Form: Oral suspension
Strengths: 125 mg/5 mL and 250 mg/5 mL
Adult dosage (ages 18 years and older)

Oral tablet: 250 or 500 mg taken every 12 hours for 7–14 days depending upon the type of bacteria causing the infection

Extended-release oral tablet: 1000 mg taken every 24 hours for 7 days

Child dosage (ages 0–17 years)

This drug hasn't been shown to be safe and effective for people younger than 18 years for this condition

Special considerations

People with kidney problems: If your creatinine clearance (a marker of kidney function) is less than 30 mL/min, your doctor will give you one half the standard dose.

Community-acquired pneumonia

Brand: Biaxin

Form: Oral tablet
Strengths: 250 mg and 500 mg
Form: Oral suspension
Strengths: 125 mg/5 mL and 250 mg/5 mL

Generic: clarithromycin

Form: Oral extended-release tablet
Strengths: 500 mg
Form: Oral tablet
Strengths: 250 mg, 500 mg
Form: Oral suspension
Strengths: 125 mg/5 mL and 250 mg/5 mL
Adult dosage (ages 18 years and older)

Oral tablet: 250 mg taken every 12 hours for 7–14 days depending upon the type of bacteria causing the infection

Extended-release oral tablet: 1000 mg taken every 24 hours for 7 days

Child dosage (ages 6 months–17 years)

Oral suspension: 7.5 mg/kg of body weight taken every 12 hours for 10 days. The oral suspension form makes it easier for your child to swallow the medication.

Child dosage (ages 0–5 months)

It hasn’t been confirmed that this drug is safe and effective for use in people younger than 6 months.

Special considerations

People with kidney problems: If your creatinine clearance (a marker of kidney function) is less than 30 mL/min, your doctor will give you one half the standard dose.

Uncomplicated skin and skin structure infections

Brand: Biaxin

Form: Oral tablet
Strengths: 250 mg and 500 mg
Form: Oral suspension
Strengths: 125 mg/5 mL and 250 mg/5 mL

Generic: clarithromycin

Form: Oral extended-release tablet
Strengths: 500 mg
Form: Oral tablet
Strengths: 250 mg, 500 mg
Form: Oral suspension
Strengths: 125 mg/5 mL and 250 mg/5 mL
Adult dosage (ages 18 years and older)

Oral tablet: 250 mg taken every 12 hours for 7–14 days

Child dosage (ages 6 months–17 years)

Oral suspension: 7.5 mg/kg of body weight taken every 12 hours for 10 days. The oral suspension form makes it easier for your child to swallow the medication.

Child dosage (ages 0–5 months)

It hasn’t been confirmed that this drug is safe and effective for use in people younger than 6 months.

Special considerations

People with kidney problems: If your creatinine clearance (a marker of kidney function) is less than 30 mL/min, your doctor will give you one half the standard dose.

Treatment of Mycobacterial infections

Brand: Biaxin

Form: Oral tablet
Strengths: 250 mg and 500 mg
Form: Oral suspension
Strengths: 125 mg/5 mL and 250 mg/5 mL

Generic: clarithromycin

Form: Oral extended-release tablet
Strengths: 500 mg
Form: Oral tablet
Strengths: 250 mg, 500 mg
Form: Oral suspension
Strengths: 125 mg/5 mL and 250 mg/5 mL
Adult dosage (ages 18 years and older)

Oral tablet: 500 mg taken twice per day

Child dosage (ages 6 months–17 years)

Oral suspension: 7.5 mg/kg of body weight taken twice per day. The maximum dose is 500 mg taken twice per day. The oral suspension form makes it easier for your child to swallow the medication.

Child dosage (ages 0–5 months)

It hasn’t been confirmed that this drug is safe and effective for use in people younger than 6 months.

Special considerations

People with kidney problems: If your creatinine clearance (a marker of kidney function) is less than 30 mL/min, your doctor will give you one half the standard dose.

Acute otitis media

Brand: Biaxin

Form: Oral tablet
Strengths: 250 mg and 500 mg
Form: Oral suspension
Strengths: 125 mg/5 mL and 250 mg/5 mL

Generic: clarithromycin

Form: Oral extended-release tablet
Strengths: 500 mg
Form: Oral tablet
Strengths: 250 mg, 500 mg
Form: Oral suspension
Strengths: 125 mg/5 mL and 250 mg/5 mL
Adult dosage (ages 18 years and older)

This drug isn't used in this age group for this condition.

Child dosage (ages 6 months–17 years)

Oral suspension: 7.5 mg/kg of body weight taken every 12 hours for 10 days. The oral suspension form makes it easier for your child to swallow the medication.

Child dosage (ages 0–5 months)

It hasn’t been confirmed that this drug is safe and effective for use in people younger than 6 months.

Special considerations

People with kidney problems: If your creatinine clearance (a marker of kidney function) is less than 30 mL/min, your doctor will give you one half the standard dose.

Helicobacter pylori infection and duodenal ulcer disease

Brand: Biaxin

Form: Oral tablet
Strengths: 250 mg and 500 mg
Form: Oral suspension
Strengths: 125 mg/5 mL and 250 mg/5 mL

Generic: clarithromycin

Form: Oral extended-release tablet
Strengths: 500 mg
Form: Oral tablet
Strengths: 250 mg, 500 mg
Form: Oral suspension
Strengths: 125 mg/5 mL and 250 mg/5 mL
Adult dosage (ages 18 years and older)

Oral tablet: Your dose depends on what drugs you’re taking clarithromycin with.

With amoxicillin and omeprazole or lansoprazole: 500 mg taken every 12 hours for 10– 14 days

With omeprazole: 500 mg taken every 8 hours for 14 days

With ranitidine bismuth citrate: 500 mg taken every 8 or 12 hours for 14 days

Child dosage (ages 0–17 years)

This drug hasn't been shown to be safe and effective for people younger than 18 years of age for this condition.

Special considerations

People with kidney problems: If your creatinine clearance (a marker of kidney function) is less than 30 mL/min, your doctor will give you one half the standard dose.

Prevention of Mycobacterial infections

Brand: Biaxin

Form: Oral tablet
Strengths: 250 mg and 500 mg
Form: Oral suspension
Strengths: 125 mg/5 mL and 250 mg/5 mL

Generic: clarithromycin

Form: Oral extended-release tablet
Strengths: 500 mg
Form: Oral tablet
Strengths: 250 mg, 500 mg
Form: Oral suspension
Strengths: 125 mg/5 mL and 250 mg/5 mL
Adult dosage (ages 18 years and older)

Oral tablet: 500 mg taken twice per day

Child dosage (ages 6 months–17 years)

Oral suspension: 7.5 mg/kg of body weight taken twice per day. The maximum dose is 500 mg taken twice per day. The oral suspension form makes it easier for your child to swallow the medication.

Child dosage (ages 0–5 months)

It hasn’t been confirmed that this drug is safe and effective for use in people younger than 6 months.

Special considerations

People with kidney problems: If your creatinine clearance (a marker of kidney function) is less than 30 mL/min, your doctor will give you one half the standard dose.

Pharyngitis/Tonsilitis

Brand: Biaxin

Form: Oral tablet
Strengths: 250 mg and 500 mg
Form: Oral suspension
Strengths: 125 mg/5 mL and 250 mg/5 mL

Generic: clarithromycin

Form: Oral extended-release tablet
Strengths: 500 mg
Form: Oral tablet
Strengths: 250 mg, 500 mg
Form: Oral suspension
Strengths: 125 mg/5 mL and 250 mg/5 mL
Adult dosage (ages 18 years and older)

Oral tablet: 250 mg taken every 12 hours for 10 days

Child dosage (ages 6 months–17 years)

Oral suspension: 7.5 mg/kg of body weight taken every 12 hours for 10 days. The oral suspension form makes it easier for your child to swallow the medication.

Child dosage (ages 0–5 months)

It hasn’t been confirmed that this drug is safe and effective for use in people younger than 6 months.

Special considerations

People with kidney problems: If your creatinine clearance (a marker of kidney function) is less than 30 mL/min, your doctor will give you one half the standard dose.

Disclaimer: Our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and current information. However, because drugs affect each person differently, we cannot guarantee that this list includes all possible dosages. This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Always to speak with your doctor or pharmacist about dosages that are right for you.
Pharmacist's Advice
Healthline Pharmacist Editorial Team

Clarithromycin comes with risks if you don’t take it as prescribed.

If you stop taking the drug or don’t take it at all

If you don’t take this drug, your infection may not improve or it may get worse.  

If you miss doses or don’t take the drug on schedule

Your medication may not work as well or may stop working completely. For this drug to work well, a certain amount needs to be in your body at all times.

If you take too much

You could have dangerous levels of the drug in your body. Symptoms can include:

  • abdominal pain
  • diarrhea
  • nausea
  • vomiting

If you think you’ve taken too much of this drug, call your doctor or local poison control center. If your symptoms are severe, call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room right away.   

What to do if you miss a dose

Take your dose as soon as you remember. But if you remember just a few hours before your next scheduled dose, take only one dose. Never try to catch up by taking two doses at once. This could result in dangerous side effects.

How to tell if the drug is working

Your symptoms of your infection and your infection should go away if this drug is working.

Clarithromycin is used for short-term treatment.

Take the extended-release tablet with food

You can take the regular release tablets and oral suspension with or without food.

The extended-release tablets shouldn’t be crushed

The regular release tablets can be crushed.

Store clarithromycin at room temperature

Keep it between 68ºF and 77ºF (20ºC and 25ºC).

Don’t refrigerate any forms of this drug.

Don’t store this medication in moist or damp areas, such as bathrooms.

A prescription for this medication is refillable

You should not need a new prescription for this medication to be refilled. Your doctor will write the number of refills authorized on your prescription.

Travel

When traveling with your medication:

  • Always carry your medication with you. When flying, never put it into a checked bag. Keep it in your carry-on bag.
  • Don’t worry about airport x-ray machines. They can’t hurt your medication.
  • You may need to show airport staff the pharmacy label for your medication. Always carry the original prescription-labeled box with you.
  • Don’t put this medication in your car’s glove compartment or leave it in the car. Be sure to avoid doing this when the weather is very hot or very cold.

Clinical monitoring

You and your doctor should monitor certain health issues. This can help make sure you stay safe while you take this drug. These issues include:

This monitoring may done using:

  • Liver function tests. Your doctor may do blood tests to check how well your liver is working. If your liver isn’t working well, your doctor may have you stop taking this drug.
  • Kidney function tests. Your doctor may do blood tests to check how well your kidneys are working. If your kidneys aren’t working well, your doctor may give you a lower dose of the drug.
  • White blood cell count. Your doctor may do blood tests to check how well you’re your body and medication is fighting the infection. If your levels are not improving, your doctor may have you stop taking this drug and recommend another.

Are there any alternatives?

There are other drugs available to treat your condition. Some may be better suited for you than others. Talk to your doctor about other drug options that may work for you.

What does the pill look like?

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SECTION 5 of 5

How Much Does clarithromycin Cost?

Oral tablet

We've partnered with GoodRx so you can compare prices, find discounts and save up to 80% on your next prescription. Check out the low coupon prices below — no insurance required.

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Lowest price for clarithromycin

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Target (CVS) $22.65
Membership warehouse $22.65
These prices represent the lowest priced national pharmacies for clarithromycin on GoodRx. They may be lower than your insurance.

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These prices represent the lowest priced national pharmacies for clarithromycin on GoodRx. They may be lower than your insurance.

Content developed in collaboration with University of Illinois-Chicago, Drug Information Group

Medically reviewed by Creighton University, Center for Drug Information and Evidence-Based Practice on December 7, 2015

Disclaimer: Healthline has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up-to-date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or other healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.
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