Meds and you

Updated 11 February 2013


Chloramphenicol is a broad spectrum antibiotic effective for treating a variety of bacterial infections.


Chloramphenicol is the active ingredient of Chloramex eye ointment, Chlorchol, Chloromycetin, Chlorphen, Minims Chloramphenicol and Sandoz Chloramphenicol.

Chloramphenicol is also one of multiple active ingredients found in Covomycin (Chloramphenicol + Neomycin + Naphazoline) and Covomycin D (Chloramphenicol + Neomycin + Dexamethasone).

General Information

Chloramphenicol is a broad spectrum antibiotic effective for treating a variety of bacterial infections. It is frequently prescribed to treat infections of the eye, ear, brain and respiratory tract, caused by susceptible bacteria. Chloramphenicol is rarely given as an oral medication, due to possible severe side effects and is most often used as eye and ear drops.

It is important to note that this medication is only effective against bacterial infections. If your infection is the result of a viral or fungal infection, it will be ineffective.

Antibiotic resistance - when bacteria develop the ability to defend themselves against the effect of an antibiotic - occurs frequently with many antibiotics. This mostly happens when patients do not fully complete the prescribed course - allowing bacteria to recover from treatment - and by using antibiotics for non-bacterial infections such as cold and flu.

How does chloramphenicol work?

Chloramphenicol functions by inhibiting bacterial protein synthesis, which prevents bacteria from producing specific proteins essential for their survival.

Fast facts

Drug schedule: Schedule 4

Available as: Chloramphenicol is available as capsules, eye drops and ointment.

What does it do? Chloramphenicol has an antibiotic action.

Overdose risk: Low

Dependence risk: Low

Is chloramphenicol available as a generic? Yes

Is chloramphenicol available on prescription only? Yes

User information

Dietary advice: Chloramphenicol, if taken orally, should be taken 1 hour before food or two hours afterwards.

Stopping this medicine: Do not stop taking this medication until you have finished the course as prescribed by your doctor. Infection may recur with premature discontinuation.

Prolonged use: Prolonged use may hold considerable risk. Discuss the matter with your doctor before starting long-term treatment.

Special precautions

Consult your doctor before using this drug if:

  • You have liver or kidney damage
  • You have a condition called bone marrow depression
  • You are allergic to Chloramphenicol
  • You are taking 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. This medication may cause serious adverse effects. Consult your doctor before use.

Infants and children: A reduced dose may be needed.

Elderly: No special precautions need to be taken.

Driving and hazardous work: No special precautions need to be taken.

Alcohol: No special precautions need to be taken.

Possible side effects

Side effect


Consult your doctor



Only if severe

In all cases

Local irritation (drops/ointment)






Nausea and vomiting



Rash/hives/itchy skin



Impaired vision



Sore throat







Drug interactions


Possible reduced efficacy of Chloramphenicol


Increased risk of bleeding

Anti-epileptic drugs

Possible increased risk of toxicity of anti-epileptics

Drugs for diabetes

Increased risk of blood sugar falling too low

Oral contraceptives

Risk of contraceptive failure

Overdose action

A small overdose is no cause for concern. In case of intentional large overdose seek emergency medical attention.


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