Biaxin Side Effects Center

Last updated on RxList: 5/13/2020
Biaxin Side Effects Center

Medical Editor: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

What Is Biaxin?

Biaxin (clarithromycin) is a macrolide antibiotic prescribed for certain bacterial infections including skin and middle ear infections, tonsillitis, throat infections, laryngitis, pneumonia, and tuberculosis. Biaxin is available in generic form.

What Are Side Effects of Biaxin?

Common side effects of Biaxin include:

Tell your doctor if you have severe liver symptoms including:

Dosage for Biaxin

Biaxin adult dose is 250mg to 500mg twice daily or 1000mg once daily (extended release) and dosage in children is based on the weight.

What Drugs, Substances, or Supplements Interact with Biaxin?

Biaxin may interact with blood thinners, colchicine, itraconazole, omeprazole, ranitidine, bismuth citrate, sildenafil, tadalafil, vardenafil, theophylline, tolterodine, other antibiotics, cholesterol-lowering medicines, drugs that weaken your immune system (such as cyclosporine or steroids), heart medications, HIV medicines, insulin or oral diabetes medications, sedatives, or seizure medications. Tell your doctor all medications and supplements you use.

Biaxin During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

The use of Biaxin should be avoided in pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers unless the risk outweighs the benefits.

Additional Information

Our Biaxin Side Effects Drug Center provides a comprehensive view of available drug information on the potential side effects when taking this medication.

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.


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Biaxin Consumer Information

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Get emergency medical help if you have signs of an allergic reaction (hives, difficult breathing, swelling in your face or throat) or a severe skin reaction (fever, sore throat, burning in your eyes, skin pain, red or purple skin rash that spreads and causes blistering and peeling).

Call your doctor at once if you have:

  • severe stomach pain, diarrhea that is watery or bloody;
  • fast or pounding heartbeats, fluttering in your chest, shortness of breath, and sudden dizziness (like you might pass out);
  • confusion, spinning sensation;
  • liver problems--loss of appetite, upper stomach pain, tiredness, dark urine, clay-colored stools, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes); or
  • kidney problems--little or no urination, swelling in your feet or ankles, feeling tired or short of breath.

Older adults may be more likely to have heart rhythm side effects, including a life-threatening fast heart rate.

Common side effects may include:

  • stomach pain, nausea, vomiting;
  • diarrhea; or
  • unusual or unpleasant taste in your mouth.

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.


Bowel regularity means a bowel movement every day. See Answer
Biaxin Professional Information


The following serious adverse reactions are described below and elsewhere in the labeling:

  • Acute Hypersensitivity Reactions [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS]
  • QT Prolongation [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS]
  • Hepatotoxicity [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS]
  • Serious Adverse Reactions Due to Concomitant Use with Other Drugs [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS]
  • Clostridium difficile Associated Diarrhea [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS]
  • Exacerbation of Myasthenia Gravis [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS]

Clinical Trials Experience

Because clinical studies are conducted under widely varying conditions, adverse reaction rates observed in the clinical studies of a drug cannot be directly compared to rates in the clinical studies of another drug and may not reflect the rates observed in practice.

Based on pooled data across all indications, the most frequent adverse reactions for both adult and pediatric populations observed in clinical trials are abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and dysgeusia. Also reported were dyspepsia, liver function test abnormal, anaphylactic reaction, candidiasis, headache, insomnia, and rash.

The subsequent subsections list the most common adverse reactions for prophylaxis and treatment of mycobacterial infections and duodenal ulcer associated with H. pylori infection. In general, these profiles are consistent with the pooled data described above.

Prophylaxis Of Mycobacterial Infections

In AIDS patients treated with BIAXIN over long periods of time for prophylaxis against M. avium, it was often difficult to distinguish adverse reactions possibly associated with BIAXIN administration from underlying HIV disease or intercurrent illness. Median duration of treatment was 10.6 months for the BIAXIN group and 8.2 months for the placebo group.

Table 4: Incidence Rates (%) of Selected Adverse Reactionsa in Immunocompromised Adult Patients Receiving Prophylaxis Against M. avium Complex

Body Systemb Adverse Reaction BIAXIN
(n=339) %
(n=339) %
Body as a Whole
Abdominal pain 5% 4%
Headache 3% 1%
Diarrhea 8% 4%
Dyspepsia 4% 3%
Flatulence 2% 1%
Nausea 11% 7%
Vomiting 6% 3%
Skin & Appendages
Rash 3% 4%
Special Senses
Taste Perversion 8%c 0.3%
a Includes those events possibly or probably related to study drug and excludes concurrent conditions
b 2% or greater Adverse Reaction Incidence Rates for either treatment group
c Significant higher incidence compared to the placebo-treated group

Changes In Laboratory Values

Selected laboratory adverse experiences that were reported during therapy in greater than 2 % of adult patients treated with BIAXIN in a randomized double-blind clinical trial involving 682 patients are presented in Table 5.

In immunocompromised patients receiving prophylaxis against M. avium, evaluations of laboratory values were made by analyzing those values outside the seriously abnormal value (i.e., the extreme high or low limit) for the specified test.

Table 5: Percentage of Patientsa Exceeding Extreme Laboratory Values in Patients Receiving Prophylaxis Against M. avium Complex

    BIAXIN 500 mg twice a day Placebo
WBC Count <1 x 109/L 2/103 (4%) 0/95
SGOT >5 x ULNb 7/196 (4%) 5/208 (2%)
SGPT >5 x ULNb 6/217 (3%) 4/232 (2%)
a Includes only patients with baseline values within the normal range or borderline high (hematology variables) and within normal range or borderline low (chemistry variables)
b ULN= Upper Limit of Normal

Treatment Of Mycobacterial Infections

The adverse reaction profiles for both the 500 mg and 1000 mg twice a day dose regimens were similar.

In AIDS patients and other immunocompromised patients treated with the higher doses of BIAXIN over long periods of time for mycobacterial infections, it was often difficult to distinguish adverse reactions possibly associated with BIAXIN administration from underlying signs of HIV disease or intercurrent illness.

The following analysis summarizes experience during the first 12 weeks of therapy with BIAXIN. Data are reported separately for trial 1 (randomized, double-blind) and trial 2 (openlabeled, compassionate use) and also combined. Adverse reactions were reported less frequently in trial 2, which may be due in part to differences in monitoring between the two studies.

In adult patients receiving BIAXIN 500 mg twice a day, the most frequently reported adverse reactions, considered possibly or possibly related to study drug, with an incidence of 5% or greater, are listed below (Table 6). Approximately 8% of the patients who received 500 mg twice a day and 12% of the patients who received 1000 mg twice a day discontinued therapy due to drug related adverse reactions during the first 12 weeks of therapy; adverse reactions leading to discontinuation in at least 2 patients included nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, rash, and asthenia.

Table 6: Selected Treatment-Relateda Adverse Reaction Incidence Rates (%) in Immunocompromised Adult Patients During the First 12 Weeks of Therapy with 500 mg Twice a Day BIAXIN Dose

Adverse Reaction Trial 1
Trial 2
Abdominal Pain 8 2 3
Diarrhea 9 2 3
Flatulence 8 0 1
Headache 8 0 2
Nausea 28 9 12
Rash 9 2 3
Taste Perversion 19 0 4
Vomiting 25 4 8
a Includes those events possibly or probably related to study drug and excludes concurrent conditions

A limited number of pediatric AIDS patients have been treated with BIAXIN suspension for mycobacterial infections. The most frequently reported adverse reactions excluding those due to the patient's concurrent conditions were consistent with those observed in adult patients.

Changes In Laboratory Values

In the first 12 weeks of starting on BIAXIN 500 mg twice a day, 3% of patients has SGOT increases and 2% of patients has SGPT increases > 5 times the upper limit of normal in trial 2 (469 enrolled adult patients) while trial 1 (154 enrolled patients) had no elevation of transaminases. This includes only patients with baseline values within the normal range or borderline low.

Duodenal Ulcer Associated With H. pylori Infection

In clinical trials using combination therapy with BIAXIN plus omeprazole and amoxicillin, no adverse reactions specific to the combination of these drugs have been observed. Adverse reactions that have occurred have been limited to those that have been previously reported with BIAXIN, omeprazole or amoxicillin.

The adverse reaction profiles are shown below (Table 7) for four randomized double-blind clinical trials in which patients received the combination of BIAXIN 500 mg three times a day, and omeprazole 40 mg daily for 14 days, followed by omeprazole 20 mg once a day, (three studies) or 40 mg once a day (one study) for an additional 14 days. Of the 346 patients who received the combination, 3.5% of patients discontinued drug due to adverse reactions.

Table 7: Adverse Reactions with an Incidence of 3% or Greater

Adverse Reaction BIAXIN + Omeprazole
(n=346) % of Patients
(n=355) % of Patients
(n=166) % of Patientsa
Taste Perversion 15 1 16
Nausea 5 1 3
Headache 5 6 9
Diarrhea 4 3 7
Vomiting 4 <1 1
Abdominal Pain 3 2 1
Infection 3 4 2
a Only two of four studies

Changes In Laboratory Values

Changes in laboratory values with possible clinical significance in patients taking BIAXIN and omeprazole in four randomized double-blind trials in 945 patients are as follows:

Hepatic: elevated direct bilirubin <1%; GGT <1%; SGOT (AST) <1%; SGPT (ALT) <1%, Renal: elevated serum creatinine <1%.

Less Frequent Adverse Reactions Observed During Clinical Trials Of Clarithromycin

Based on pooled data across all indications, the following adverse reactions were observed in clinical trials with clarithromycin at a rate less than 1%:

Blood and Lymphatic System Disorders: Leukopenia, neutropenia, thrombocythemia, eosinophilia

Cardiac Disorders: Electrocardiogram QT prolonged, cardiac arrest, atrial fibrillation, extrasystoles, palpitations

Ear and Labyrinth Disorders: Vertigo, tinnitus, hearing impaired

Gastrointestinal Disorders: Stomatitis, glossitis, esophagitis, gastrooesophageal reflux disease, gastritis, proctalgia, abdominal distension, constipation, dry mouth, eructation, flatulence

General Disorders and Administration Site Conditions: Malaise, pyrexia, asthenia, chest pain, chills, fatigue

Hepatobiliary Disorders: Cholestasis, hepatitis

Immune System Disorders: Hypersensitivity

Infections and Infestations: Cellulitis, gastroenteritis, infection, vaginal infection

Investigations: Blood bilirubin increased, blood alkaline phosphatase increased, blood lactate dehydrogenase increased, albumin globulin ratio abnormal

Metabolism and Nutrition Disorders: Anorexia, decreased appetite

Musculoskeletal and Connective Tissue Disorders: Myalgia, muscle spasms, nuchal rigidity

Nervous System Disorders: Dizziness, tremor, loss of consciousness, dyskinesia, somnolence

Psychiatric Disorders: Anxiety, nervousness

Renal and Urinary Disorders: Blood creatinine increased, blood urea increased

Respiratory, Thoracic and Mediastinal Disorders: Asthma, epistaxis, pulmonary embolism

Skin and Subcutaneous Tissue Disorders: Urticaria, dermatitis bullous, pruritus, hyperhidrosis, rash maculo-papular

Gastrointestinal Adverse Reactions

In the acute exacerbation of chronic bronchitis and acute maxillary sinusitis studies overall gastrointestinal adverse reactions were reported by a similar proportion of patients taking either BIAXIN Filmtab or BIAXIN XL Filmtab; however, patients taking BIAXIN XL Filmtab reported significantly less severe gastrointestinal symptoms compared to patients taking BIAXIN Filmtab. In addition, patients taking BIAXIN XL Filmtab had significantly fewer premature discontinuations for drug-related gastrointestinal or abnormal taste adverse reactions compared to BIAXIN Filmtab.

All-Cause Mortality In Patients With Coronary Artery Disease 1 To 10 Years Following BIAXIN Exposure

In one clinical trial evaluating treatment with clarithromycin on outcomes in patients with coronary artery disease, an increase in risk of all-cause mortality was observed in patients randomized to clarithromycin. Clarithromycin for treatment of coronary artery disease is not an approved indication. Patients were treated with clarithromycin or placebo for 14 days and observed for primary outcome events (e.g., all-cause mortality or non-fatal cardiac events) for several years.1 A numerically higher number of primary outcome events in patients randomized to receive clarithromycin was observed with a hazard ratio of 1.06 (95% confidence interval 0.98 to 1.14). However, at follow-up 10 years post-treatment, there were 866 (40%) deaths in the clarithromycin group and 815 (37%) deaths in the placebo group that represented a hazard ratio for all-cause mortality of 1.10 (95% confidence interval 1.00 to 1.21). The difference in the number of deaths emerged after one year or more after the end of treatment.

The cause of the difference in all-cause mortality has not been established. Other epidemiologic studies evaluating this risk have shown variable results [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].

Postmarketing Experience

The following adverse reactions have been identified during post-approval use of BIAXIN. Because these reactions are reported voluntarily from a population of uncertain size, it is not always possible to reliably estimate their frequency or establish a causal relationship to drug exposure.

Blood and Lymphatic System: Thrombocytopenia, agranulocytosis

Cardiac: Ventricular arrhythmia, ventricular tachycardia, torsades de pointes

Ear and Labyrinth: Deafness was reported chiefly in elderly women and was usually reversible.

Gastrointestinal: Pancreatitis acute, tongue discoloration, tooth discoloration was reported and was usually reversible with professional cleaning upon discontinuation of the drug.

There have been reports of BIAXIN XL Filmtab in the stool, many of which have occurred in patients with anatomic (including ileostomy or colostomy) or functional gastrointestinal disorders with shortened GI transit times. In several reports, tablet residues have occurred in the context of diarrhea. It is recommended that patients who experience tablet residue in the stool and no improvement in their condition should be switched to a different clarithromycin formulation (e.g. suspension) or another antibacterial drug.

Hepatobiliary: Hepatic failure, jaundice hepatocellular. Adverse reactions related to hepatic dysfunction have been reported with clarithromycin [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].

Infections and Infestations: Pseudomembranous colitis [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS]

Immune System: Anaphylactic reactions, angioedema

Investigations: Prothrombin time prolonged, white blood cell count decreased, international normalized ratio increased. Abnormal urine color has been reported, associated with hepatic failure.

Metabolism and Nutrition: Hypoglycemia has been reported in patients taking oral hypoglycemic agents or insulin.

Musculoskeletal and Connective Tissue: Myopathy rhabdomyolysis was reported and in some of the reports, clarithromycin was administered concomitantly with statins, fibrates, colchicine or allopurinol [see CONTRAINDICATIONS and WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].

Nervous System: Parosmia, anosmia, ageusia, paresthesia and convulsions

Psychiatric: Abnormal behavior, confusional state, depersonalization, disorientation, hallucination, depression, manic behavior, abnormal dream, psychotic disorder. These disorders usually resolve upon discontinuation of the drug.

Renal and Urinary: Nephritis interstitial, renal failure

Skin and Subcutaneous Tissue: Stevens-Johnson syndrome, toxic epidermal necrolysis, drug rash with eosinophilia and systemic symptoms (DRESS), Henoch-Schonlein purpura, acne, acute generalized exanthematous pustulosis

Vascular: Hemorrhage

Read the entire FDA prescribing information for Biaxin (Clarithromycin)

© Biaxin Patient Information is supplied by Cerner Multum, Inc. and Biaxin Consumer information is supplied by First Databank, Inc., used under license and subject to their respective copyrights.

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