An Overview of Clindamycin (Cleocin)

Other Names: Cleocin HCl, Cleocin Hydrochloride, Cleocin Pediatric, Cleocin Phosphate, clindamycin HCl, clindamycin palmitate hydrochloride
Drug Class: Opportunistic Infections and Coinfections

Chemical Images:

clindamycin hydrochloride
clindamycin hydrochloride
Molecular Weight: 461.4476
clindamycin palmitate hydrochloride
clindamycin palmitate hydrochloride
Molecular Weight: 699.86
clindamycin phosphate
clindamycin phosphate
Molecular Weight: 504.9656

What Is Clindamycin?

Clindamycin is an antibacterial prescription medicine approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of serious infections caused by certain types of bacteria. Examples of the infections include serious respiratory tract infections, skin and soft tissue infections, infections of the female pelvis and genital tract, and others.

Certain bacterial respiratory infections (such as pneumonia) 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. To learn more about opportunistic infections, read the AIDS_info_ What is an Opportunistic Infection? fact sheet.

Clindamycin 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 Clindamycin Used For?

The Guidelines for the Prevention and Treatment of Opportunistic Infections in HIV-Infected Adults and Adolescents, prepared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the HIV Medicine Association of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA-HIVMA), includes recommendations on the HIV-related uses of clindamycin to:

  • Prevent:
    • Toxoplasma gondii encephalitis (also called toxoplasmosis) from recurring (called secondary prophylaxis or maintenance therapy). (This is an "off-label" use.)
  • Treat:
    • Pneumonia caused by the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus.
    • Pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP). (This is an "off-label" use.)
    • Toxoplasma gondii encephalitis. (This is an "off-label" use.)
    • Malaria. (This is an "off-label" use.)

The above list may not include all of the HIV-related uses of clindamycin recommended in the Guidelines for the Prevention and Treatment of Opportunistic Infections in HIV-Infected Adults and Adolescents. Some recommended uses, such as uses in certain rare circumstances, may have been omitted.

What Should I Tell My Health Care Provider Before Taking Clindamycin?

Before taking clindamycin, tell your health care provider:

  • If you are allergic to clindamycin 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 pills, difficulty remembering to take medicines on schedule, or any health conditions that may prevent your use of intravenous medicines.
  • If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. In clinical trials with pregnant women, use of clindamycin during the second and third trimesters was not associated with an increase in birth defects. Whether clindamycin can harm an unborn baby during the first trimester is unknown. Clindamycin should be used during the first trimester only if clearly needed. Talk to your health care provider about possible risks with taking clindamycin when pregnant.
  • 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. Clindamycin may affect the way other medicines or products work, and other medicines or products may affect how clindamycin works. Ask your health care provider if there are interactions between clindamycin and the other medicines you take.

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

How Should I Take Clindamycin?

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

How Should Clindamycin Be Stored?

  • Store clindamycin capsules, granules for oral solution, and solution for intravenous use at room temperature, 68°F to 77°F (20°C to 25°C).
  • Do not refrigerate the reconstituted oral solution; when chilled, the solution may thicken and be difficult to pour. The solution is stable for 2 weeks at room temperature.
  • Do not use clindamycin if the original seal over the container opening is broken or missing.
  • Throw away clindamycin that is no longer needed or expired (out of date). Follow FDA guidelines on how to safely dispose of unused medicine.
  • Keep clindamycin and all medicines out of reach of children.

Where Can I Find More Information About Clindamycin?

More information about clindamycin is available:

The above Patient Version drug summary is based on the following FDA label(s): Capsule; Granule (for solution); Injection (solution).