Vancomycin

Brand names of vancomycin

  • PMS-Vancomycin
  • Vancocin
  • Vancoled
  • Vancor

Vancomycin belongs to a group of medicines known as glycopeptide antibiotics. Antibiotics are compounds that kill bacteria and are, therefore, used to treat diseases caused by bacterial infections. Vancomycin kills the bacteria that infect the large intestines and cause colitis. It is highly specific in its action and does not kill bacteria infecting other parts of the body and, therefore, cannot be used to treat any other condition, at least when taken orally. Needless to say, it cannot improve cold, flu or any other viral infection; no antibiotic can.

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Prior to taking vancomycin let your health care provider know

  • About your allergies to medicines including vancomycin.
  • About all prescription or non prescription medicines, vitamins, minerals or other nutritional supplements, and even herbal products that you are taking. Don't forget to mention any of these medicines if you are using them: amikacin (Amikin), kanamycin (Kantrex), gentamicin (Garamycin), tobramycin (Nebcin), amphotericin B (Fungizone), cisplatin (Platinol), polymyxin B, colistin, streptomycin and bacitracin.
  • About your medical history, especially if you suffer from, or have ever suffered from, inflammatory bowel diseases, that is, swelling of the intestines causing painful cramps and diarrhea, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, kidney diseases and hearing problems.
  • About your pregnancy state. Inform your doctor if you are already pregnant, or are planning to be pregnant, or are breast feeding babies. If pregnancy occurs while you are on vancomycin, be sure to tell your doctor.
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Usage

Vancomycin is used in the treatment of colitis, a bacterial infection of the colon, or the large intestine, causing severe inflammation. It is mainly used in a severe form of colitis called Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea. It is a severe intestinal infection often occurring after the patient has used another antibiotic leading to the growth of antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria. Vancomycin, given orally, is not absorbed by the body and remains in the intestines, where it kills the bacteria causing the infection and prevents their further growth.

Vancomycin is sometimes used before surgery, including dental surgery, in patients who are susceptible to heart valve infection but can't be given penicillin.

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Vancomycin is highly specific in action. It works only in intestinal bacterial infections, not in other bacterial infections, and certainly not in viral infections like common cold or flu. Unnecessary or over use of vancomycin, just like that of any other antibiotic, may decrease its effectiveness.

How to use vancomycin

Vancomycin is available in the form of capsules as well as suspension, to be taken orally. The usual dosage is 3 or 4 times a day for 7 to 10 days. Take it regularly at about the same time every day. Take care to follow the directions given in your prescription, and the medicine label, and clarify anything ambiguous with your doctor or the pharmacist. Take exactly as directed, don't increase or decrease dosage, frequency, or duration of treatment without the advice of your doctor.

It is important to take any antibiotic for the full duration of prescription even if you are improving. Stopping too soon, or missing doses, may leave the infection uncured and lead to the growth of antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria which will make treatment later on very difficult.

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Vancomycin is associated with hearing loss - temporary as well as permanent. To make sure that it is not harmfully affecting your hearing, you need to undergo regular tests. So, religiously follow your visit schedules to your doctor.

If you are taking capsules, take it with a glass of water. If you are taking oral suspension, shake the bottle well before measuring dose. Measure it with a measuring spoon or cup, not with a regular teaspoon or tablespoon. If you don't have a measuring spoon or cup, get one from your pharmacist.

If you are using capsules, store them at room temperature, away from light, heat or moisture. If you are using suspension, store it in the refrigerator without allowing it to freeze.

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Your dosage of vancomycin will be based on the severity of your condition and your response to treatment. It is most effective when its amount in the intestines remains constant. To ensure this, take the medicine regularly at about the same time, in exactly the dose prescribed, for the full duration of treatment. Stopping too early may lead to a return of the bacteria with a vengeance. Inform the doctor if there is no improvement even after a week, or there is deterioration at any time.

How vancomycin works

Vancomycin stops the growth of the bacteria causing the infection, and kills them, by interfering with the formation of the bacterial cell wall.

Side effects

Serious
Common
  • mouth irritation
  • bitter or unpleasant taste
  • redness at injection site

Possible interactions

Other medicaments
The effectiveness of vancomycin may be decreased by:If you are already taking either of these, or need to take them while you are on vancomycin, consult your doctor or the pharmacist. You may most likely be advised to take them at least 3-4 hours before or after taking vancomycin.
Vancomycin taken along with:
  • Aminoglycoside antibiotics, like gentamincin or tobramycin, cyclosporine (Sandimmune) and other medications that cause ear or kidney toxicity, may lead to additive toxicity.
  • Metformin (Glucophage) or such other cationic medications may increase the risk of lactic acidosis.
  • Succinylcholine (Anectine) may cause neuromuscular blockade for extended periods requiring the use of neostigmine.
  • Warfarin (Coumadin) may increase the risk of bleeding and may require INR (prothrombin time or protime) tests.
Herbal medicines or minerals
Sometimes, people use Echinacea to strengthen their immune system. However, its use is not recommended if the immune system is already weakened. In fact, too frequent or too long use in such a condition may further weaken the immune system.
Alcohol
Alcohol can worsen colitis; use sparingly and with caution.

Storage instructions

Keep the medicine in its original container; do not transfer the contents into another container. Keep the container tightly closed and store at room temperature, away from light, heat, moisture, and of course children and pets. Don't store the leftover medication for future use. Don't flush it down the toilet or pour it into a drain either. Ask your pharmacist or local waste disposal company about the right way of disposing the leftover medication.

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