Prescription Drug Information: Clarithromycin (Page 5 of 8)


8.1 Pregnancy

Risk Summary

Based on findings from animal studies, clarithromycin is not recommended for use in pregnant women except in clinical circumstances where no alternative therapy is appropriate. If pregnancy occurs while taking clarithromycin, the patient should be apprised of the potential hazard to the fetus [see Warnings and Precautions (5.7)].

Limited data from a small number of published human studies with clarithromycin use during pregnancy are insufficient to inform drug-associated risks of major birth defects, miscarriage, or adverse maternal or fetal outcomes. In animal reproduction studies, administration of oral clarithromycin to pregnant mice, rats, rabbits, and monkeys during the period of organogenesis produced malformations in rats (cardiovascular anomalies) and mice (cleft palate) at clinically relevant doses based on body surface area comparison. Fetal effects in mice, rats, and monkeys (e.g., reduced fetal survival, body weight, body weight gain) and implantation losses in rabbits were generally considered to be secondary to maternal toxicity (see Data).

The estimated background risk of major birth defects and miscarriage for the indicated population is unknown. All pregnancies have a background risk of birth defect, loss, or other adverse outcomes. In the U.S. general population, the estimated background risk of major birth defects and miscarriage in clinically recognized pregnancies is 2% to 4% and 15% to 20%, respectively.


Animal Data

Animal reproduction studies were conducted in mice, rats, rabbits, and monkeys with oral and intravenously administered clarithromycin. In pregnant mice, clarithromycin was administered during organogenesis (gestation day [GD] 6 to 15) at oral doses of 15, 60, 250, 500, or 1000 mg/kg/day. Reduced body weight observed in dams at 1000 mg/kg/day (3 times the maximum recommended human dose [MRHD] based on body surface area comparison) resulted in reduced survival and body weight of the fetuses. At ≥ 500 mg/kg/day, increases in the incidence of postimplantation loss and cleft palate in the fetuses were observed. No adverse developmental effects were observed in mice at ≤ 250 mg/kg/day (≤ 1 times MRHD based on body surface area comparison).

In pregnant Sprague Dawley rats, clarithromycin was administered during organogenesis (GD 6 to 15) at oral doses of 15, 50, or 150 mg/kg/day. Reductions in body weight and food consumption was observed in dams at 150 mg/kg/day. Increased resorptions and reduced body weight of the fetuses at this dose were considered secondary to maternal toxicity. Additionally, at 150 mg/kg/day (1 times MRHD based on body surface area comparison), a low incidence of cardiovascular anomalies (complete situs inversus, undivided truncus, IV septal defect) was observed in the fetuses. Clarithromycin did not cause adverse developmental effects in rats at 50 mg/kg/day (0.3 times MRHD based on body surface area comparison). Intravenous dosing of clarithromycin during organogenesis in rats (GD 6 to 15) at 15, 50, or 160 mg/kg/day was associated with maternal toxicity (reduced body weight, body-weight gain, and food consumption) at 160 mg/kg/day but no evidence of adverse developmental effects at any dose (≤ 1 times MRHD based on body surface area comparison).

In pregnant Wistar rat, clarithromycin was administered during organogenesis (GD 7 to 17) at oral doses of 10, 40, or 160 mg/kg/day. Reduced body weight and food consumption were observed in dams at 160 mg/kg/day but there was no evidence of adverse developmental effects at any dose (≤ 1 times MRHD based on body surface area comparison).

In pregnant rabbits, clarithromycin administered during organogenesis (GD 6 to 18) at oral doses of 10, 35, or 125 mg/kg/day resulted in reduced maternal food consumption and decreased body weight at the highest dose, with no evidence of any adverse developmental effects at any dose (≤ 2 times MRHD based on body surface area comparison). Intravenously administered clarithromycin to pregnant rabbits during organogenesis (GD 6 to 18) in rabbits at 20, 40, 80, or 160 mg/kg/day (≥ 0.3 times MRHD based on body surface area comparison) resulted in maternal toxicity and implantation losses at all doses.

In pregnant monkeys, clarithromycin was administered (GD 20 to 50) at oral doses of 35 or 70 mg/kg/day. Dose-dependent emesis, poor appetite, fecal changes, and reduced body weight were observed in dams at all doses (≥ 0.5 times MRHD based on body surface area comparison).

Growth retardation in 1 fetus at 70 mg/kg/day was considered secondary to maternal toxicity. There was no evidence of primary drug related adverse developmental effects at any dose tested.

8.2 Lactation

Risk Summary

Based on limited human data, clarithromycin and its active metabolite 14-OH clarithromycin are present in human milk at less than 2% of the maternal weight-adjusted dose (see Data). In a separate observational study, reported adverse effects on breast-fed children (rash, diarrhea, loss of appetite, somnolence) were comparable to amoxicillin (see Data). No data are available to assess the effects of clarithromycin or 14-OH clarithromycin on milk production.

The development and health benefits of breastfeeding should be considered along with the mother’s clinical need for clarithromycin and any potential adverse effects on the breast-fed child from clarithromycin or from the underlying maternal condition.



Serum and milk samples were obtained after 3 days of treatment, at steady state, from one published study of 12 lactating women who were taking clarithromycin 250 mg orally twice daily. Based on the limited data from this study, and assuming milk consumption of 150 mL/kg/day, an exclusively human milk fed infant would receive an estimated average of 136 mcg/kg/day of clarithromycin and its active metabolite, with this maternal dosage regimen. This is less than 2% of the maternal weight-adjusted dose (7.8 mg/kg/day, based on the average maternal weight of 64 kg), and less than 1% of the pediatric dose (15 mg/kg/day) for children greater than 6 months of age.

8.3 Females and Males of Reproductive Potential

Males Administration of clarithromycin resulted in testicular atrophy in rats, dogs and monkeys [see Nonclinical Toxicology (13.1)] .

8.4 Pediatric Use

The safety and effectiveness of clarithromycin tablets have been established for the treatment of the following conditions or diseases in pediatric patients 6 months and older. Use in these indications is based on clinical trials in pediatric patients or adequate and well-controlled studies in adults with additional pharmacokinetic and safety data in pediatric patients:

  • Pharyngitis/Tonsillitis
  • Community-Acquired Pneumonia
  • Acute maxillary sinusitis
  • Acute otitis media [see Clinical Studies (14.2)]
  • Uncomplicated skin and skin structure infections

The safety and effectiveness of clarithromycin tablets have been established for the prevention of disseminated Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC) disease in pediatric patients 20 months and older with advanced HIV infection. No studies of clarithromycin for MAC prophylaxis have been performed in pediatric populations and the doses recommended for prophylaxis are derived from MAC pediatric treatment studies.

Safety and effectiveness of clarithromycin in pediatric patients under 6 months of age have not been established. The safety of clarithromycin has not been studied in MAC patients under the age of 20 months.

8.5 Geriatric Use

In a steady-state study in which healthy elderly subjects (65 years to 81 years of age) were given 500 mg of clarithromycin every 12 hours, the maximum serum concentrations and area under the curves of clarithromycin and 14-OH clarithromycin were increased compared to those achieved in healthy young adults. These changes in pharmacokinetics parallel known age-related decreases in renal function. In clinical trials, elderly patients did not have an increased incidence of adverse reactions when compared to younger patients. Consider dosage adjustment in elderly patients with severe renal impairment. Elderly patients may be more susceptible to development of torsades de pointes arrhythmias than younger patients [see Warnings and Precautions (5.3)] .

Most reports of acute kidney injury with calcium channel blockers metabolized by CYP3A4 (e.g., verapamil, amlodipine, diltiazem, nifedipine) involved elderly patients 65 years of age or older [see Warnings and Precautions (5.4)] .

Especially in elderly patients, there have been reports of colchicine toxicity with concomitant use of clarithromycin and colchicine, some of which occurred in patients with renal insufficiency. Deaths have been reported in some patients [see Contraindications (4.4) and Warnings and Precautions (5.4)] .

8.6 Renal and Hepatic Impairment

Clarithromycin is principally excreted via the liver and kidney. Clarithromycin may be administered without dosage adjustment to patients with hepatic impairment and normal renal function. However, in the presence of severe renal impairment with or without coexisting hepatic impairment, decreased dosage or prolonged dosing intervals may be appropriate [see Dosage and Administration (2.6)] .


Overdosage of clarithromycin can cause gastrointestinal symptoms such as abdominal pain, vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea.

Treat adverse reactions accompanying overdosage by the prompt elimination of unabsorbed drug and supportive measures. As with other macrolides, clarithromycin serum concentrations are not expected to be appreciably affected by hemodialysis or peritoneal dialysis.


Clarithromycin is a semi-synthetic macrolide antimicrobial for oral use. Chemically, it is 6- 0- methylerythromycin. The molecular formula is C 38 H 69 NO 13 , and the molecular weight is 747.96. The structural formula is:

Chemical Structure
(click image for full-size original)

Figure 1: Structure of Clarithromycin

Clarithromycin USP is a white or almost white, crystalline powder. It is soluble in acetone, slightly soluble in methanol, ethanol, and acetonitrile, and practically insoluble in water.

Clarithromycin tablets, USP are available as immediate-release tablets.

Each film-coated tablet contains 250 mg or 500 mg of clarithromycin USP and the following inactive ingredients: microcrystalline cellulose, croscarmellose sodium, colloidal silicon dioxide, magnesium stearate, povidone, hypromellose, titanium dioxide, hydroxypropyl cellulose, iron oxide yellow, propylene glycol, vanillin, and sorbic acid.


12.1 Mechanism of Action

Clarithromycin is a macrolide antimicrobial drug [see Microbiology (12.4)] .

12.3 Pharmacokinetics


The absolute bioavailability of 250 mg clarithromycin tablets was approximately 50%. For a single 500 mg dose of clarithromycin, food slightly delays the onset of clarithromycin absorption, increasing the peak time from approximately 2 to 2.5 hours. Food also increases the clarithromycin peak plasma concentration by about 24%, but does not affect the extent of clarithromycin bioavailability. Food does not affect the onset of formation of the active metabolite, 14-OH clarithromycin or its peak plasma concentration but does slightly decrease the extent of metabolite formation, indicated by an 11% decrease in area under the plasma concentration-time curve (AUC). Therefore, clarithromycin tablets may be given without regard to food. In non-fasting healthy human subjects (males and females), peak plasma concentrations were attained within 2 to 3 hours after oral dosing.


Clarithromycin and the 14-OH clarithromycin metabolite distribute readily into body tissues and fluids. There are no data available on cerebrospinal fluid penetration. Because of high intracellular concentrations, tissue concentrations are higher than serum concentrations. Examples of tissue and serum concentrations are presented below.

Table 9. Tissue and Serum Concentrations of Clarithromycin
CONCENTRATION (after 250 mg every 12 hours)
Tissue Type Tissue (mcg/g) Serum (mcg/mL)
Tonsil 1.6 0.8
Lung 8.8 1.7

Metabolism and Elimination

Steady-state peak plasma clarithromycin concentrations were attained within 3 days and were approximately 1 mcg/mL to 2 mcg/mL with a 250 mg dose administered every 12 hours and 3 mcg/mL to 4 mcg/mL with a 500 mg dose administered every 8 hours to 12 hours. The elimination half-life of clarithromycin was about 3 hours to 4 hours with 250 mg administered every 12 hours but increased to 5 hours to 7 hours with 500 mg administered every 8 hours to 12 hours. The nonlinearity of clarithromycin pharmacokinetics is slight at the recommended doses of 250 mg and 500 mg administered every 8 hours to 12 hours. With a 250 mg every 12 hours dosing, the principal metabolite, 14-OH clarithromycin, attains a peak steady-state concentration of about 0.6 mcg/mL and has an elimination half-life of 5 hours to 6 hours. With a 500 mg every 8 hours to 12 hours dosing, the peak steady-state concentration of 14-OH clarithromycin is slightly higher (up to 1 mcg/mL), and its elimination half-life is about 7 hours to 9 hours. With any of these dosing regimens, the steady-state concentration of this metabolite is generally attained within 3 days to 4 days.

After a 250 mg tablet every 12 hours, approximately 20% of the dose is excreted in the urine as clarithromycin, while after a 500 mg tablet every 12 hours, the urinary excretion of clarithromycin is somewhat greater, approximately 30%. In comparison, after an oral dose of 250 mg (125 mg/5 mL) suspension every 12 hours, approximately 40% is excreted in urine as clarithromycin. The renal clearance of clarithromycin is, however, relatively independent of the dose size and approximates the normal glomerular filtration rate. The major metabolite found in urine is 14-OH clarithromycin, which accounts for an additional 10% to 15% of the dose with either a 250 mg or a 500 mg tablet administered every 12 hours.

Specific Populations for Clarithromycin Tablets

HIV Infection

Steady-state concentrations of clarithromycin and 14-OH clarithromycin observed following administration of 500 mg doses of clarithromycin every 12 hours to adult patients with HIV infection were similar to those observed in healthy volunteers. In adult HIV-infected patients taking 500 mg or 1000 mg doses of clarithromycin every 12 hours, steady-state clarithromycin C max values ranged from 2 mcg/mL to 4 mcg/mL and 5 mcg/mL to 10 mcg/mL, respectively.

Hepatic Impairment

The steady-state concentrations of clarithromycin in subjects with impaired hepatic function did not differ from those in normal subjects; however, the 14-OH clarithromycin concentrations were lower in the hepatically impaired subjects. The decreased formation of 14-OH clarithromycin was at least partially offset by an increase in renal clearance of clarithromycin in the subjects with impaired hepatic function when compared to healthy subjects.

Renal Impairment

The pharmacokinetics of clarithromycin was also altered in subjects with impaired renal function [see Use in Specific Populations (8.6) and Dosage and Administration (2.6)] .

Drug Interactions


Following administration of fluconazole 200 mg daily and clarithromycin 500 mg twice daily to 21 healthy volunteers, the steady-state clarithromycin C min and AUC increased 33% and 18%, respectively. Clarithromycin exposures were increased and steady-state concentrations of 14-OH clarithromycin were not significantly affected by concomitant administration of fluconazole.


When a single dose of colchicine 0.6 mg was administered with clarithromycin 250 mg BID for 7 days, the colchicine C max increased 197% and the AUC 0-∞ increased 239% compared to administration of colchicine alone.


Following administration of clarithromycin (500 mg twice daily) with atazanavir (400 mg once daily), the clarithromycin AUC increased 94%, the 14-OH clarithromycin AUC decreased 70% and the atazanavir AUC increased 28%.


Concomitant administration of clarithromycin and ritonavir (n = 22) resulted in a 77% increase in clarithromycin AUC and a 100% decrease in the AUC of 14-OH clarithromycin.


Following administration of clarithromycin (500 mg bid) and saquinavir (soft gelatin capsules, 1200 mg tid) to 12 healthy volunteers, the steady-state saquinavir AUC and C max increased 177% and 187% respectively compared to administration of saquinavir alone. Clarithromycin AUC and C max increased 45% and 39% respectively, whereas the 14–OH clarithromycin AUC and C max decreased 24% and 34% respectively, compared to administration with clarithromycin alone.


Simultaneous administration of clarithromycin tablets and didanosine to 12 HIV-infected adult patients resulted in no statistically significant change in didanosine pharmacokinetics.


Following administration of clarithromycin 500 mg tablets twice daily with zidovudine 100 mg every 4 hours, the steady-state zidovudine AUC decreased 12% compared to administration of zidovudine alone (n=4). Individual values ranged from a decrease of 34% to an increase of 14%. When clarithromycin tablets were administered two to four hours prior to zidovudine, the steady-state zidovudine C max increased 100% whereas the AUC was unaffected (n=24).


Clarithromycin 500 mg every 8 hours was given in combination with omeprazole 40 mg daily to healthy adult subjects. The steady-state plasma concentrations of omeprazole were increased (C max , AUC 0-24 , and t ½ increases of 30%, 89%, and 34%, respectively), by the concomitant administration of clarithromycin.

The plasma levels of clarithromycin and 14–OH clarithromycin were increased by the concomitant administration of omeprazole. For clarithromycin, the mean C max was 10% greater, the mean C min was 27% greater, and the mean AUC 0-8 was 15% greater when clarithromycin was administered with omeprazole than when clarithromycin was administered alone. Similar results were seen for 14–OH clarithromycin, the mean C max was 45% greater, the mean C min was 57% greater, and the mean AUC 0-8 was 45% greater. Clarithromycin concentrations in the gastric tissue and mucus were also increased by concomitant administration of omeprazole.

Clarithromycin Tissue Concentrations 2 hours after Dose (mcg/mL)/(mcg/g)
Treatment N antrum fundus N Mucus
Clarithromycin 5 10.48 ± 2.01 20.81 ± 7.64 4 4.15 ± 7.74
Clarithromycin + Omeprazole 5 19.96 ± 4.71 24.25 ± 6.37 4 39.29 ± 32.79


In two studies in which theophylline was administered with clarithromycin (a theophylline sustained-release formulation was dosed at either 6.5 mg/kg or 12 mg/kg together with 250 or 500 mg q12h clarithromycin), the steady-state levels of C max , C min , and the area under the serum concentration time curve (AUC) of theophylline increased about 20%.


When a single dose of midazolam was co-administered with clarithromycin tablets (500 mg twice daily for 7 days), midazolam AUC increased 174% after intravenous administration of midazolam and 600% after oral administration.

For information about other drugs indicated in combination with clarithromycin, refer to their full prescribing information, CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY section. provides trustworthy package insert and label information about marketed prescription drugs as submitted by manufacturers to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Package information is not reviewed or updated separately by Every individual prescription drug label and package insert entry contains a unique identifier which can be used to secure further details directly from the U.S. National Institutes of Health and/or the FDA.

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