Tetracyclines: Uses, most common brand names, and safety information
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Tetracyclines are broad-spectrum antibiotics used in the management and treatment of a variety of infectious diseases. They are generally considered bacteriostatic, which means they inhibit the growth of bacteria. It also means they are at a higher risk of antibiotic resistance to certain strains of bacteria. Tetracycline antibiotics have been around since the 1940s when Aureomycin (chlortetracycline) was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The second tetracycline, Terramycin (oxytetracycline), was discovered by Pfizer in the 1950s. Both of these medications have been discontinued and are no longer available. Here we will discuss in more depth the properties, brand names, pricing, and safety of tetracyclines.
The list below includes FDA-approved tetracyclines and their pricing:
List of Tetracyclines
What are tetracyclines?
Tetracyclines are a class of antibiotics that have been used for the treatment of a wide variety of bacterial infections for 70 years. They are all derivatives of the Streptomyces bacteria. Tetracyclines are used to treat adult and pediatric patients with infections caused by susceptible gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria, as well as rickettsia, chlamydia, protozoa, and mycoplasma. Tetracyclines are important for the treatment and prophylaxis of bacterial infections that can be used as biological weapons. They are also an alternative therapy for patients who cannot take penicillins.
What is the mechanism of action of tetracyclines?
Tetracyclines are antimicrobial agents that inhibit the protein synthesis of certain bacteria by binding to the 30S ribosomal subunit, which acts as a messenger for DNA. They prevent bacterial cell growth but do not necessarily kill the bacteria. Shortly after being introduced, the first tetracycline-resistant strain of bacteria was identified. Today, bacterial resistance has limited their effectiveness and use in the treatment of infections.
What conditions are tetracyclines used to treat?
Tetracyclines are used to treat:
- Upper and lower respiratory tract infections
- Lyme disease
- Rocky Mountain spotted fever
- Pelvic inflammatory disease
- Skin and skin structure infections
- Intestinal amebiasis
- Legionnaire’s disease
- Whipple disease
- Traveler’s diarrhea
- Certain strains of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
Are tetracyclines safe?
The use of tetracyclines is relatively safe and effective when taken as prescribed. Before beginning treatment with tetracyclines, tell your healthcare provider if you have any of the following:
- Hypersensitivity reaction to a tetracycline or any inactive ingredient in its formulation
- Liver disease
- Kidney disease
- High cholesterol or triglyceride levels
- Myasthenia gravis
- Pregnant, plan on becoming pregnant or are breastfeeding
What are some common side effects of tetracyclines?
The adverse effects you experience from tetracyclines will depend on several factors including the medication and dose. Some side effects of tetracyclines include:
- Stomach pain
- Loss of appetite
- Tooth discoloration
- Photosensitivity (sunburn)
- Vaginal itching or discharge
- Yeast infection
- Tinnitus (ringing of the ears)
More rarely, tetracyclines can cause more severe adverse reactions, including:
- Serious, life-threatening allergic reaction
- Bone growth inhibition in children
- Intracranial hypertension (increased pressure within your brain)
- Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea
- Ulcers in your esophagus
- Liver toxicity
- Worsening renal failure
This is not a complete list of side effects and we encourage you to consult with your healthcare provider for medical advice about any possible side effects.
Who should not take tetracyclines?
Tetracyclines are contraindicated in patients with renal failure, pregnant women, and women who are breastfeeding. They should also should be avoided in children under the age of 8 as they can cause permanent tooth discoloration.
What bacteria do tetracyclines treat?
Tetracyclines treat a variety of gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria, including:
- Borrelia recurrentis
- Mycoplasma pneumonia
- Staphylococcus aureus, including some MRSA
- Vibrio species (cholera)
- Plasmodium vivax (malaria)
- Bacillus anthracis (anthrax)
- Yersinia pestis (plague)
- Mycoplasma species
- Helicobacter pylori
- Treponema pallidum (syphillis)
- Borrelia burgdorferi (Lyme disease)
What are some drug interactions with tetracyclines?
The use of tetracyclines with certain foods or other medications can affect how they work or increase the frequency and severity of side effects. Make sure your healthcare provider is aware of all the over-the-counter and prescription drugs you are taking, including:
- Birth control medications
- Products containing aluminum, calcium, or magnesium, including dairy products and antacids
- Iron or zinc supplements
- Blood thinners
Why should you not lie down right after taking a tetracycline antibiotic?
You should swallow tetracyclines whole with 8 ounces of water and avoid lying down for at least 30 minutes. Lying down immediately after taking a tetracycline can cause irritation or ulceration of your esophagus.
Should tetracyclines be taken with food?
Most tetracyclines should be taken on an empty stomach, either 1 hour before a meal or 2 hours after. If the medication upsets your stomach, talk with your doctor to see if you can take it with food.
Why should you avoid milk with tetracyclines?
Milk and other dairy products contain calcium, which can interact with tetracyclines. Calcium binds to the antibiotic and prevents your body from absorbing it. This decreases the concentration of the medication in your bloodstream which can make it less effective.
How much do tetracyclines cost?
Tetracyclines are very expensive with an average cost of around $10,000 per year.
You can purchase Tetracyclines for $49 per month from NiceRx if eligible for assistance. Prices at the pharmacy vary by location, strength, and quantity, as well as your insurance status.