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Is clindamycin a penicillin?

Medically reviewed by Sally Chao, MD. Last updated on May 2, 2023.

Official answer


No, clindamycin is not a penicillin antibiotic. Instead, it belongs to a class of medications known as lincomycin antibiotics, or lincosamides. It makes it hard for bacteria to reproduce by blocking it from making certain proteins. It may be used if you are allergic to penicillins, and is often reserved for serious infections. Clindamycin is a broad-spectrum antibiotic, with the ability to impact many types of bacteria in the body.

Penicillin is its own class of antibiotics and includes amoxicillin, ampicillin and dicloxacillin. They kill bacteria by preventing it from making its cell wall. Many preparations are narrow-spectrum, which means they target only specific types of bacteria, but some boosted preparations are considered broad-spectrum, such as amoxicillin-clavulanate.

Both antibiotics work to rid your body of infection.

Available in liquid, capsule or topical forms, clindamycin is effective against gram-positive organisms, including Staphylococcus aureus (methicillin-susceptible strains), Streptococcus pneumoniae (penicillin-susceptible strains), Streptococcus pyogenes and some gram-negative ones. It is also effective against several anaerobic bacteria, which are those that survive without air.

Clindamycin fights many infections on the skin, respiratory tract or internal organs or abdomen. It’s sometimes used before a dental procedure to prevent infection as well.

Clindamycin confers its share of side effects, including:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Skin rashes
  • Unpleasant taste
  • Joint pain
  • Swallowing pain
  • Heartburn
  • White patches in the mouth
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Vaginal burning, itching and swelling
  • Effects on the liver, kidney or immune system

Taking clindamycin and all antibiotics as prescribed for as long as prescribed helps to reduce the risk of developing superbugs that are resistant to antibiotics.

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Antibiotic Resistance & Patient Safety Portal Outpatient Antibiotic Prescription Data. Available at: [Accessed April 28, 2021].
  2. Sarpong EM, Miller GE. Narrow- and Broad-Spectrum Antibiotic Use among U.S. Children. Health Serv Res. 2015;50(3):830-846. Available at:
  3. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). CLEOCIN HCl® clindamycin hydrochloride capsules, USP. Available at: [Accessed April 28, 2021].
  4. U.S. National Library of Medicine (MedlinePlus). Clindamycin. April 16, 2021. Available at: [Accessed April 23, 2021].
  5. Murphy PB, Bistas KG, Le JK. Clindamycin. In: StatPearls [Internet]. 2021 Jan. Available at:
  6. Melander RJ, Zurawski DV, Melander C. Narrow-spectrum antibacterial agents. Medchemcomm. 2018 Jan 1; 9(1): 12–21. Available at:

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