rifaximin, Xifaxan

  • Pharmacy Author:
    Omudhome Ogbru, PharmD

    Dr. Ogbru received his Doctorate in Pharmacy from the University of the Pacific School of Pharmacy in 1995. He completed a Pharmacy Practice Residency at the University of Arizona/University Medical Center in 1996. He was a Professor of Pharmacy Practice and a Regional Clerkship Coordinator for the University of the Pacific School of Pharmacy from 1996-99.

  • Medical and Pharmacy Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD
    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

What is rifaximin, and how does it work (mechanism of action)?

Rifaximin is a semi-synthetic antibiotic used for treating traveler's diarrhea and hepatic encephalopathy. It is derived from rifamycin, a naturally occurring chemical produced by a bacterium called Streptomyces mediterranei. Rifaximin is active against Escherichia coli bacterial strains that cause traveler's diarrhea, preventing growth of the bacteria by preventing them from manufacturing proteins needed for their replication and survival. By suppressing growth of the bacteria, rifaximin reduces symptoms of traveler's diarrhea. Hepatic encephalopathy is a serious neurologic complication of advanced liver disease that affects the brain. It is believed to be caused by the absorption of ammonia and other chemicals produced by bacteria in the intestine. It is believed that rifaximin prevents and treats hepatic encephalopathy by reducing the intestinal bacteria that produce ammonia. The FDA approved rifaximin in May 2004.

What brand names are available for rifaximin?

Xifaxan

Is rifaximin available as a generic drug?

GENERIC AVAILABLE: No

Do I need a prescription for rifaximin?

Yes

What are the side effects of rifaximin?

Common side effects associated with rifaximin include:

Many of these side effects are also symptoms of traveler's diarrhea which rifaximin is used for treating. Rifaximin also causes allergic reactions, rash, and itching. Like other antibiotics rifaximin can alter the normal bacteria in the colon and encourage overgrowth of some bacteria such as Clostridium difficile which causes inflammation of the colon (pseudomembranous colitis). Patients who develop signs of pseudomembranous colitis after starting rifaximin (diarrhea, fever, abdominal pain, and possibly shock,) should contact their physician immediately.

Quick GuideDigestive Disorders: Common Misconceptions

Digestive Disorders: Common Misconceptions
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