Meds and you

Updated 11 February 2013

Imipenem

Imipenem is a broad-spectrum antibiotic drug related to penicillin and cephalosporin antibiotics.

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Imipenem is also one of multiple active ingredients found in Tienam (Imipenem + Cilastin).

General information

Imipenem is a broad-spectrum antibiotic drug related to penicillin and cephalosporin antibiotics.

It is effectively applied in the treatment of septicaemia, endocarditis (a bacterial infection of the heart lining), lower respiratory tract, genitourinary tract, intra-abdominal, bone and joint, and skin and soft tissue infections caused by organisms that are sensitive to imipenem.

The use of this antibiotic is generally limited to severe nosocomial infections - infections originating in a hospital environment, occurring in a patient in whom the infection was not present at time of admission.

Imipenem is hardly ever used on its own, and is generally combined with cilastin, a chemical that inhibits certain enzymes in the body to ensure that imipenem stays active in the body for longer. Cilastin itself does however have no antibacterial action.

The use of this antibiotic is reserved for hospital use only.

How does imipenem work?

It works by interfering with bacterial ability to form cell walls, and therefore the bacteria break up and die.

Fast facts

Drug schedule: schedule 4

Available as: imipenem is available as injection

What does it do? Imipenem has an antibiotic action

Overdose risk: medium

Dependence risk: low

Is imipenem available as a generic? no

Is imipenem available on prescription only? yes

Special precautions

Consult your doctor before using this drug if:

  • you have epilepsy
  • you are allergic to any antibiotics
  • you have any disorders of the central nervous system
  • you have kidney disease
  • you are taking any other medication

Pregnancy: avoid. Potential risk to the foetus has been reported. Consult your doctor before use, or if you are planning to fall pregnant.

Breastfeeding: avoid. This medication is passed through breast milk and may affect your baby adversely. Consult your doctor before use.

Porphyria: avoid. It is unknown how this medication may affect your condition. Consult your doctor before use.

Infants and children: this medication should only be used as prescribed by a paediatrician

The elderly: caution is advised in the elderly and a reduced dose may be needed.

Possible side effects

Side effect

Frequency

Consult your doctor

Common

Rare

Only if severe

In all cases

Stomach pain

x

x

Nausea/vomiting

x

x

Diarrhoea

x

x

Taste disturbances

x

x

Sin rash/itch

x

x

Convulsions

x

x

Pain/ inflammation at site of injection

x

x

Interactions

Drug interactions

ganciclovir

increased imipenem toxicity

theophylline

increased risk of convulsion

Disease interactions

Consult your doctor before using this drug if you have epilepsy, are allergic to any antibiotics, have any disorders of the central nervous system or if you have kidney disease.

Recommended dosage

Adults: dose not to exceed 50 mg/kg/day up to a maximum daily dose of 4 g/day.

Children: only as prescribed by a paediatrician. Not to exceed 2 g/day.

Interesting fact

Due to Imipenem's broad spectrum of action it is sometimes referred to as "Gorilla-cillin".

 

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