How does this medication work? What will it do for me?

Vancomycin belongs to the group of medications known as antibiotics. It works by killing the bacteria that are causing the infection.

The oral form is used to treat certain infections of the gastrointestinal tract.

The intravenous (IV) form of this medication is used to treat other infections such as those involving the bones, lungs, blood, and heart.

Your doctor may have suggested this medication for conditions other than those listed in these drug information articles. As well, some forms of this medication may not be used for all of the conditions discussed here. If you have not discussed this with your doctor or are not sure why you are being given this medication, speak to your doctor. Do not stop using this medication without consulting your doctor.

Do not give this medication to anyone else, even if they have the same symptoms as you do. It can be harmful for people to use this medication if their doctor has not prescribed it.

What form(s) does this medication come in?

125 mg
Each peach and dark blue capsule contains vancomycin 125 mg. Nonmedicinal ingredients: polyethylene glycol; capsule shell: benzyl alcohol, butylparaben, carboxymethylcellulose sodium, edetate calcium disodium, FD&C Blue No. 2, gelatin, methylparaben, propylparaben, sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium propionate, synthetic iron oxide red, synthetic iron oxide yellow, and titanium dioxide.

250 mg
Each pale brown and dark blue capsule contains vancomycin 250 mg. Nonmedicinal ingredients: polyethylene glycol; capsule shell: benzyl alcohol, butylparaben, carboxymethylcellulose, edetate calcium disodium, FD&C Blue No. 2, gelatin, methylparaben, propylparaben, sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium propionate, synthetic iron oxide black, synthetic iron oxide red, and titanium dioxide.

How should I use this medication?

The usual oral dose for adults is 125 mg to 500 mg taken every 6 to 8 hours for 7 to 10 days.

The usual IV (into a vein) dose for adults is 500 mg given every 8 to 12 hours. For IV injections, the dose of this medication will be administered by your doctor or health care professional. The length of treatment with IV vancomycin depends on the severity of the infection and the response to the medication.

For children, the oral form (given by mouth) is based on body weight and is given in 3 or 4 daily doses for 7 to 10 days. The IV form of vancomycin is given every 6 hours. The total daily dose should not be greater than 2,000 mg.

Many things can affect the dose of medication that a person needs, such as body weight, other medical conditions, and other medications. If your doctor has recommended a dose different from the ones listed here, do not change the way that you are using the medication without consulting your doctor.

It is important to use this medication exactly as prescribed by your doctor. Finish all of this medication, even if you start to feel better. If you miss a dose, use it as soon as possible and continue with your regular schedule. If it is almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and continue with your regular dosing schedule. Do not administer a double dose to make up for a missed one. If you are not sure what to do after missing a dose, contact your doctor or pharmacist for advice.

Store this medication at room temperature and keep it out of the reach of children.

Do not dispose of medications in wastewater (e.g. down the sink or in the toilet) or in household garbage. Ask your pharmacist how to dispose of medications that are no longer needed or have expired.

Who should NOT take this medication?

Vancomycin should not be used by anyone who is allergic to vancomycin or to any of the ingredients of the medication.

What side effects are possible with this medication?

Many medications can cause side effects. A side effect is an unwanted response to a medication when it is taken in normal doses. Side effects can be mild or severe, temporary or permanent. The side effects listed below are not experienced by everyone who takes this medication. If you are concerned about side effects, discuss the risks and benefits of this medication with your doctor.

The following side effects have been reported by at least 1% of people taking this medication. Many of these side effects can be managed, and some may go away on their own over time.

Contact your doctor if you experience these side effects and they are severe or bothersome. Your pharmacist may be able to advise you on managing side effects.

  • additional side effects associated with IV administration of vancomycin include:
    • dizziness
    • flushing, redness, rash, itching, pain in the back and neck
    • severe decrease in blood pressure
  • chills
  • indigestion
  • mouth irritation
  • nausea
  • taste changes
  • vomiting

Although most of these side effects listed below don't happen very often, they could lead to serious problems if you do not check with your doctor or seek medical attention.

Check with your doctor as soon as possible if any of the following side effects occur:

  • fever
  • hearing loss, dizziness, ringing in the ears
  • sore throat

Stop taking the medication and seek immediate medical attention if any of the following occur:

  • signs of a severe allergic reaction (e.g., hives; difficulty breathing; swelling of the mouth, tongue, lips, or throat)
  • symptoms of a severe skin rash (e.g., blistering, peeling, a rash covering a large area of the body, a rash that spreads quickly, or a rash combined with fever or discomfort)

Some people may experience side effects other than those listed. Check with your doctor if you notice any symptom that worries you while you are taking this medication.

Are there any other precautions or warnings for this medication?

Before you begin using a medication, be sure to inform your doctor of any medical conditions or allergies you may have, any medications you are taking, whether you are pregnant or breast-feeding, and any other significant facts about your health. These factors may affect how you should use this medication.

Hearing loss: Vancomyin can cause hearing loss. People with a history of hearing loss should not take this medication if possible. If you experience any hearing loss, dizziness, or ringing ears while taking this medication, contact your doctor immediately.

Intestinal inflammation: People with conditions associated with inflammation of the intestines (e.g., Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis) may be at higher risk for side effects, especially if they also have impaired kidney function. Your doctor will monitor you closely for side effects.

Kidney function: Vancomycin can cause kidney damage. People with reduced kidney function or kidney disease should discuss with their doctor how this medication may affect their medical condition, how their medical condition may affect the dosing and effectiveness of this medication, and whether any special monitoring is needed.

Overgrowth of organisms: During prolonged or repeated treatment with vancomyin, other bacteria or fungi may be allowed to overgrow. If your condition does not improve or worsens while taking this medication, contact your doctor.

Pregnancy: This medication should not be used during pregnancy unless the benefits outweigh the risks. If you become pregnant while taking this medication, contact your doctor immediately.

Breast-feeding: This medication passes into breast milk. If you are a breast-feeding mother and are taking vancomycin, it may affect your baby. Talk to your doctor about whether you should continue breast-feeding.

Children: Premature neonates and young infants may require regular blood tests to ensure that the child is receiving the most appropriate dose.

Seniors: Seniors may be more likely to experience side effects associated with vancomycin. They may need a lower dose or be put on a less frequent dosing schedule.

What other drugs could interact with this medication?

There may be an interaction between vancomycin and any of the following:

  • aminoglycoside antibiotics (e.g., tobramycin, gentamicin)
  • BCG vaccine (tuberculosis vaccine)
  • cholestyramine (oral dosage form of vancomycin only)
  • cisplatin
  • colestipol (oral dosage form of vancomycin only)
  • neuromuscular blocking agents (e.g., tubocurarine, pancuronium)
  • nonsteriodal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs; e.g., ibuprofen, naproxen)
  • typhoid vaccine

If you are taking any of these medications, speak with your doctor or pharmacist. Depending on your specific circumstances, your doctor may want you to:

  • stop taking one of the medications,
  • change one of the medications to another,
  • change how you are taking one or both of the medications, or
  • leave everything as is.

An interaction between two medications does not always mean that you must stop taking one of them. Speak to your doctor about how any drug interactions are being managed or should be managed.

Medications other than those listed above may interact with this medication. Tell your doctor or prescriber about all prescription, over-the-counter (non-prescription), and herbal medications you are taking. Also tell them about any supplements you take. Since caffeine, alcohol, the nicotine from cigarettes, or street drugs can affect the action of many medications, you should let your prescriber know if you use them.