Vancomycin is an antibiotic used to treat infections. This form of vancomycin is used to treat a certain intestinal condition (colitis) caused by bacteria. This condition causes diarrhea and stomach/abdominal discomfort or pain. When vancomycin is taken by mouth, it stays in the intestines to stop the growth of certain bacteria that cause these symptoms.

This antibiotic treats only bacterial infection in the intestines. It will not work for bacterial infections in any other part of the body or for viral infections (such as common cold, flu). Using any antibiotic when it is not needed can cause it to not work for future infections.

What is it used for?

  • Inflammation of the bowel lining (pseudomembranous colitis) caused by infection with a type of bacteria called Clostridium difficile.
  • Inflammation of the bowel and small intestine (enterocolitis) caused by infection with Staphylococcal bacteria.

How does it work?

  • Vancocin capsules contain the active ingredient vancomycin, which is a type of medicine called an antibiotic. It is used to treat infections caused by bacteria.
  • Vancomycin belongs to a group of antibiotics called glycopeptides. It works by interfering with the ability of bacteria to form cell walls.
  • The cell walls of bacteria are vital for their survival. They keep unwanted substances from entering their cells and stop the contents of their cells from leaking out. The bacterial cell wall is reinforced by molecules called peptidoglycans. Vancomycin works by blocking the formation of these peptidoglycans.
This weakens the walls of the bacteria and kills the bacteria.
  • When vancomycin is taken by mouth it is not significantly absorbed from the gut into the bloodstream. It acts locally in the gut to kill bacteria that are causing an infection in the gut.
  • How do I take it?

    • Vancocin capsules can be taken either with or without food. They should be swallowed with a drink of water.
    • The dose prescribed, how often to take the medicine and for how long will vary from person to person. It is important to follow the instructions given by your doctor. These will also be printed on the dispensing label that your pharmacist has put on the packet of medicine.
    • You should try to take the medicine at regular intervals, spaced out over the day. If you forget to take a dose, take it as soon as you remember. If it is nearly time for your next dose, miss out the forgotten dose and continue as usual. Don't take a double dose to make up for a missed dose.
    • Unless your doctor tells you otherwise, it is important that you finish the prescribed course of this antibiotic medicine, even if you feel better or it seems the infection has cleared up. Stopping the course early increases the chance that the infection will come back and that the bacteria will grow resistant to the antibiotic.

    Use with caution in

    • Elderly people.
    • People with decreased kidney function.
    • People with a history of hearing problems.
    • People with inflammatory bowel disease such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease.

    Not to be used in

    • Allergy to vancomycin.
    • This medicine should not be used if you are allergic to one or any of its ingredients. Please inform your doctor or pharmacist if you have previously experienced such an allergy. If you feel you have experienced an allergic reaction, stop using this medicine and inform your doctor or pharmacist immediately.

    Pregnancy and breastfeeding

    • Certain medicines should not be used during pregnancy or breastfeeding. However, other medicines may be safely used in pregnancy or breastfeeding providing the benefits to the mother outweigh the risks to the unborn baby. Always inform your doctor if you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, before using any medicine.
    • This medicine should be used with caution during pregnancy, and only if the expected benefit to the mother is greater than any possible risk to the developing baby. Ask your doctor for more advice if you are or think you could be pregnant.
    • Vancomycin can pass into breast milk, but this is unlikely when taking vancomycin by mouth because it is not absorbed from the gut in significant amounts. However, the manufacturer states that this medicine should be used with caution in women who are breastfeeding. Seek further medical advice from your doctor.

    Side effects

    Vancomycin is very poorly absorbed from the gut and does not usually enter the bloodstream in significant amounts. This means it is very unlikely to cause the side effects that can be associated with vancomycin given by injection. Side effects are more likely in people with severe inflammation in their bowel, or with existing kidney problems. 

    • Rashes.
    • Itching.
    • Nausea.
    • Disturbances in the usual numbers of blood cells in the blood.
    • Hearing problems.
    • Spinning sensation (vertigo).
    • Sensation of ringing or other noise in the ears (tinnitus).
    • Kidney failure.

    The side effects listed above may not include all of the side effects reported by the medicine's manufacturer.

    For more information about any other possible risks associated with this medicine, please read the information provided with the medicine or consult your doctor or pharmacist.

    How can this medicine affect other medicines?

    It is important to tell your doctor or pharmacist what medicines you are already taking, including those bought without a prescription and herbal medicines, before you start treatment with this medicine. Similarly, check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking any new medicines while taking this one, to make sure that the combination is safe.

    Oral typhoid vaccine (Vivotif) should not be taken until at least three days after you have finished a course of this antibiotic, because the antibiotic could make the vaccine less effective.

    Colestyramine can make this medicine less effective if it is taken at the same time of day. Vancomycin should be taken at least one hour before or four to six hours after taking colestyramine.

    This antibiotic does not affect the contraceptive pill. However, if you are taking the contraceptive pill and are experiencing vomiting or diarrhoea as a result of your gut infection, you should follow the instructions for vomiting and diarrhoea described in the leaflet provided with your pills.

    There may be an increased chance of hearing problems or side effects on the kidneys if this medicine is used in combination with other medicines that can cause these problems, such as the following:

    • aminoglycoside antibiotics such as neomycin
    • amphotericin B
    • bacitracin
    • capreomycin
    • ciclosporin
    • cisplatin
    • colistin
    • loop diuretics such as furosemide
    • polymixin B
    • tacrolimus.


    Health Reference: Ulcerative Colitis