Precautions and Warnings With Clarithromycin

There are several precautions and warnings with clarithromycin to be aware of before starting treatment. For instance, if you have kidney or liver disease, your healthcare provider may prescribe you a lower dosage. Also, the medication can cause bloody diarrhea in some people. Warnings and precautions with clarithromycin also extend to people with certain allergies and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

What Should I Tell My Healthcare Provider Before Taking Clarithromycin?

You should talk with your healthcare provider prior to taking clarithromycin (Biaxin®) if you have:
  • Kidney disease, such as kidney failure (renal failure)
  • Liver disease, such as liver failure, cirrhosis, or hepatitis
  • An arrhythmia known as long QT syndrome
  • Any allergies, including allergies to foods, dyes, or preservatives.
Also, let your healthcare provider know if you are:
  • Pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant
  • Breastfeeding.
Make sure to tell your healthcare provider about any other medicines you are taking, including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.

Specific Precautions and Warnings With Clarithromycin

Warnings and precautions to be aware of prior to taking clarithromycin include the following:
  • Let your healthcare provider know if you experience bloody or watery diarrhea during treatment. While diarrhea is a common side effect of clarithromycin, bloody or watery diarrhea may be a sign of a serious reaction to the drug that can occur when certain bacteria (Clostridium difficile) overgrow in the colon. This severe reaction can occur long after you have stopped taking clarithromycin and can result in life-threatening complications.
  • Clarithromycin can cause a change in the heart rhythm known as QT prolongation. This can be dangerous, especially in people who already have a similar problem known as long QT syndrome or in people who are taking other medications that also cause QT prolongation (see Drug Interactions With Clarithromycin).
  • Overuse of antibiotics increases the risk for developing antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Your healthcare provider should only prescribe antibiotics when necessary and only to treat bacterial infections. Antibiotics are not effective for treating viral infections, such as the common cold or the flu.
  • Make sure your healthcare provider knows if you have kidney or liver disease, as you may need a lower or less frequent clarithromycin dosage.
  • Sometimes, antibiotics can cause yeast infections, as they can get rid of "good" bacteria that help protect against yeast infections. Let your healthcare provider know if you develop a vaginal yeast infection or thrush (a yeast infection of the mouth) while taking clarithromycin.
  • It is very important that you take clarithromycin exactly as prescribed. Skipping doses or stopping the drug too early (even if you feel better) can lead to bacterial resistance to it.
  • Clarithromycin can interact with many other medications (see Drug Interactions With Clarithromycin).
  • Clarithromycin is considered a pregnancy Category C medication. This means that it may not be safe for use during pregnancy, although the full risks are not known. Talk to your healthcare provider about the risks and benefits of using the drug when pregnant (see Biaxin and Pregnancy for more information).
  • This medication does pass through breast milk. Therefore, if you are breastfeeding or plan to start, make sure to talk with your healthcare provider about using clarithromycin (see Biaxin and Breastfeeding for more information).
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