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An Overview of Fluconazole (Diflucan)

November 21, 2012

Other Names: Diflucan

What is fluconazole?

Fluconazole is an antifungal prescription medicine approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of esophageal candidiasis, oropharyngeal candidiasis, vaginal candidiasis, and cryptococcal meningitis. It is also approved to decrease the chance of candidiasis in people undergoing bone marrow transplantation who receive cytotoxic chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy.

Esophageal candidiasis (infection of the esophagus), oropharyngeal candidiasis (infection of part of the throat), and vaginal candidiasis (infection of the vagina) are all examples of mucocutaneous candidiasis (also called mucosal candidiasis). Mucocutaneous candidiasis is a fungal infection that is caused by Candida yeasts and affects the skin and mucus membranes (such as in the mouth or vagina). Mucocutaneous candidiasis and cryptococcal meningitis are opportunistic infections. An opportunistic infection is an infection that occurs more frequently or is more severe in people with weakened immune systems -- such as those infected with HIV -- than in people with healthy immune systems.

Fluconazole can also be used "off-label" to prevent and treat other opportunistic infections of HIV infection. "Off-label" use refers to use of an FDA-approved medicine in a manner different from that described on the medicine label. Good medical practice and the best interests of a patient sometimes require that a medicine be used "off-label."

What HIV-related opportunistic infections is fluconazole used for?

The Guidelines for Prevention and Treatment of Opportunistic Infections in HIV-Infected Adults and Adolescents, prepared by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), includes recommendations on the HIV-related uses of fluconazole to:

  • Prevent:

    • Coccidioidomycosis from occurring the first time (called primary prophylaxis) and from recurring (called secondary prophylaxis or maintenance therapy). (This is an "off-label" use.)
    • Cryptococcal meningitis from recurring.
  • Treat:

    • Cryptococcal meningitis.
    • Mucocutaneous candidiasis, including esophageal candidiasis, oropharyngeal candidiasis, and vulvovaginal candidiasis.
    • Coccidioidomycosis. (This is an "off-label" use.)

What should I tell my health care provider before taking fluconazole?

Before taking fluconazole, tell your health care provider:

  • If you are allergic to fluconazole or any other medicines.
  • About any medical conditions you have or have had, for example, diabetes or liver problems.
  • About anything that could affect your ability to take medicines, such as difficulty swallowing or remembering to take pills.
  • If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. Your health care provider will discuss whether fluconazole is right for you and whether there is any potential harmful risk to your fetus.
  • If you are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. Do not breastfeed if you are infected with HIV.
  • About other prescription and nonprescription medicines, vitamins, nutritional supplements, and herbal products you are taking or plan to take. Ask your health care provider if there are interactions between fluconazole and the other medicines you take.

Ask your health care provider about possible side effects from fluconazole. Your health care provider will tell you what to do if you have side effects.

How should I take fluconazole?

Take fluconazole according to your health care provider's instructions. Your health care provider will tell you how much fluconazole to take and when to take it. Before you start fluconazole and each time you get a refill, read any printed information that comes with your medicine.

How should fluconazole be stored?

  • Store fluconazole tablets below 86°F (30°C).
  • Store fluconazole powder for oral suspension below 86°F (30°C). Store reconstituted fluconazole suspension between 41°F and 86°F (5°C to 30°C) and throw away the unused portion after 2 weeks. Protect from freezing.
  • Store glass bottles of fluconazole for intravenous infusion between 41°F and 86°F (5°C to 30°C). Protect from freezing.
  • Store plastic containers of fluconazole for intravenous infusion between 41°F and 77°F (5°C to 25°C). Brief exposure up to 104°F (40°C) does not adversely affect the medicine. Protect from freezing.
  • Safely throw away fluconazole that is no longer needed or expired (out of date).
  • Keep fluconazole and all medicines out of reach of children.

Where can I find more information about fluconazole?

More information about fluconazole is available:

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This article was provided by AIDSinfo. Visit the AIDSinfo website to find out more about their activities and publications.
See Also
Candidiasis (Thrush)
More on the Treatment of Fungal Infections