DermNet provides Google Translate, a free machine translation service. Note that this may not provide an exact translation in all languages



Author: Dr Weng Chyn Chan MB ChB, Dept of Dermatology Waikato Hospital, Hamilton, New Zealand, 2004.

Clindamycin — codes and concepts

What is clindamycin?

Clindamycin is a lincosamide antibiotic. It is used to treat infections due to susceptible bacteria.

  • Skin and soft tissue infections
  • Respiratory tract infections
  • Bone and joint infections
  • Pelvic infections
  • Intra-abdominal infections
  • Septicaemia and endocarditis
  • Dental infections
  • Multi-drug resistant Plasmodium falciparum (malaria) infection

Clindamycin can be used topically, orally or intravenously. In New Zealand (July 2017), it is available on prescription. In other countries, it may also be available as a topical foam, vaginal cream and oral suspension.

Clindamycin is quickly absorbed after oral administration, and absorption is not affected by food.

When do dermatologists use clindamycin?

Dermatologists prescribe clindamycin for a variety of skin conditions.

Indications for clindamycin solution, gel or lotion include:

Clindamycin is also available to treat acne in combination with benzoyl peroxide.

Clindamycin vaginal cream is used to treat bacterial vaginosis.

Together with rifampicin, uses for oral clindamycin include:

Clindamycin is active against gram-positive organisms (Staphylococcus aureus, Staphylococcus epidermidis, streptococci and Cutibacterium) and gram-negative organisms (Bacteroides species). Susceptible organisms include both aerobic and anaerobic bacteria.

What are the side effects of clindamycin?

Oral clindamycin is generally well tolerated. However, there are significant side effects that may affect some people taking the medicine orally or by injection (they are very rarely seen with the topical preparations).

Gastrointestinal effects

Clindamycin has been associated with colitis (inflammation of the bowel); this is caused by a toxin produced from an overgrowth of a bacterium, Clostridium difficile (also known as Clostridioides difficile). Symptoms can range from mild watery diarrhoea to severe, persistent diarrhoea with fever, abdominal cramps and the passage of blood and mucus. It may be potentially dangerous. If significant diarrhoea develops while taking clindamycin, the drug should be stopped. A stool test may show the presence of the toxin. Treatment depends on the severity of symptoms. Stopping the medication may be enough; however, more severe cases may require hospitalisation for intravenous fluid and antibiotic therapy.

Allergic rashes

Drug-induced urticaria, rarely erythema multiforme and anaphylactoid reactions have been reported.

Liver disease

  • Jaundice (dark urine, yellow eyes and skin)

Musculoskeletal side effects

  • Rarely, polyarthritis (inflammation of several joints) has been reported.

What are the precautions when prescribed clindamycin?

  • The safety of use in pregnancy has not been established.
  • Clindamycin has been reported to appear in breast milk but is regarded as safe to use when breastfeeding.
  • If therapy is prolonged, liver and renal function tests may be monitored periodically.
  • Clindamycin may enhance the action of neuromuscular blocking agents.
  • Clindamycin may counteract the effects of erythromycin.

New Zealand approved datasheets are the official source of information for prescription medicines, including approved uses and risk information. Check the individual New Zealand datasheet on the Medsafe website.

If you are not based in New Zealand, we suggest you refer to your national drug approval agency for further information about medicines (eg, the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration and the US Food and Drug Administration) or a national or state-approved formulary (eg, the New Zealand Formulary and New Zealand Formulary for Children and the British National Formulary and British National Formulary for Children).

See smartphone apps to check your skin.
[Sponsored content]


Related information


Sign up to the newsletter