Meds and you

Updated 11 February 2013


Oxytetracycline is a broad-spectrum antibiotic effective in treating a variety of bacterial infections.


Oxytetracycline is the active ingredient of Be-Oxytet, Cotet, O-4 Cycline and Oxypan.

Oxytetracycline is also one of multiple active ingredients found in Terra-Cortril, Terramycin and Spec-Oxytocin.

General information

Oxytetracycline is a broad-spectrum antibiotic effective in treating a variety of bacterial infections. It is frequently prescribed to treat upper and lower respiratory tract infections, urinary tract infections, sexually transmitted diseases, acne and certain other infections caused by organisms that are susceptible to oxytetracycline.

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. The most common causes for this are when patients do not complete the prescribed course in full, allowing bacteria to recover from treatment, and by using antibiotics for non-bacterial infections, such as cold and flu.

The absorption of oxytetracycline is impaired by food and it is recommended that oxytetracycline should be taken at least one hour before, or two hours after a meal. Antacids, milk and milk products, and iron supplements should not be given within 2 hours of a minocycline dose, as it may reduce the absorption and thus the effect of the antibiotic.

Oxytetracycline combines with calcium in the body and is deposited in the developing and growing bones and teeth of unborn babies and growing children. This often results in yellow-brown staining of both milk- and permanent teeth, and retardation of bone growth. Oxytetracycline should therefore not be given to children under the age of 12, and pregnant or breastfeeding women.

An increased incidence of an abnormal sunburn reaction in people taking oxytetracycline has also been noted.

How does oxytetracycline work?

Tetracycline antibiotics functions by inhibiting bacterial protein synthesis - it thus prevents bacteria to produce specific proteins essential for their survival.

Fast facts

Drug schedule: schedule 4

Available as : oxytetracycline is available as capsules

What does it do? Oxytetracycline has an anti-bacterial effect.

Overdose risk: low

Dependence risk: low

Is oxytetracycline available as a generic? yes

Is oxytetracycline available on prescription only? yes

User information

Onset of effect: may take a few days for the full beneficial effect to be reached and several weeks in the case of acne.

Duration of action: up to 24 hours.

Dietary advice: milk and milk products should not be given within 2 hours of Oxytetracycline; medication should be taken with plenty of water.

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: there is a slim risk of liver damage during prolonged use of the drug.

Special precautions

Consult your doctor before using this drug if:

  • you have liver or kidney disease
  • you have systemic lupus erythematosus
  • you have myasthenia gravis
  • 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. This medication may cause serious adverse effects. Consult your doctor before use.

Infants and children: this medication is not intended for use in children under the age of 12.

The 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










skin rash/ itch






visual disturbance




Drug interactions


reduced effect of antibiotic; take 2 hours apart


risk of warfarin toxicity

medication for epilepsy such as carbamazepine, phenobarbital and phenytoin

reduced effect of antibiotic


risk of ciclosporin toxicity

iron salts

reduced antibiotic effect; reduced iron absorption

oral contraceptives

contraceptive failure is possible; use alternative contraception

isotretinoin/ acitretin

raised intracranial pressure

sodium bicarbonate

increase pH and reduced antibiotic activity


may reduce effect of antibiotic; space at least 2 hours apart

Food interactions

Milk and milk products should not be given within 2 hours of oxytetracycline.

Disease interactions

Consult your doctor before using this drug if you have liver disease, you have systemic lupus erythematosus, you have porphyria or if you have myasthenia gravis.

Overdose action

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

Recommended dosage

Adults: 250 - 500mg every 6 hours


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