VA Class: DE101
Chemical Name: 2-Methyl-5-nitro-1H-imidazole-1-ethanol
Molecular Formula: C6H9N3O3
CAS Number: 443-48-1
Brands: MetroCream, MetroGel, MetroGel-Vaginal, MetroLotion, Noritate, Vandazole
Uses for Metronidazole
Treatment of inflammatory lesions (papules and pustules) associated with rosacea (acne rosacea);1 2 8 9 10 16 17 18 19 20 21 47 180 184 207 topical gel designated an orphan drug by FDA for use in this condition.23
Optimal treatment not determined; inflammatory lesions may respond to long-term treatment with topical anti-infectives (e.g., metronidazole) or oral anti-infectives (e.g., doxycycline, tetracycline, erythromycin, ampicillin, metronidazole).10 11 12 13 15 16 17 20 21 47 80 82 2 8 9 10 16 17 18 19 20 21 47 80 81 82 Topical metronidazole may be preferred to oral metronidazole;17 147 has been effective in patients with inadequate response or relapse with other therapies (e.g., oral tetracycline).2 10 17 21 62
Treatment of bacterial vaginosis (formerly called Haemophilus vaginitis, Gardnerella vaginitis, nonspecific vaginitis, Corynebacterium vaginitis, anaerobic vaginosis)109 111 112 114 115 119 120 122 123 139 153 183 214 in nonpregnant women.214
CDC recommends treatment of bacterial vaginosis in all symptomatic women (including pregnant women).109 In addition, asymptomatic pregnant women at high risk for complications of pregnancy should be screened (preferably at the first prenatal visit) and treatment initiated if needed.109
Treatment recommendations for bacterial vaginosis in HIV-infected women are the same as those for women without HIV infection.109
Regimens of choice in nonpregnant women are a 7-day regimen of oral metronidazole, a 5-day regimen of intravaginal metronidazole gel, or a 7-day regimen of intravaginal clindamycin cream;109 114 alternative regimens are a 7-day regimen of oral clindamycin or 3-day regimen of intravaginal clindamycin suppositories.109 114 The preferred regimens for pregnant women are a 7-day regimen of oral metronidazole or a 7-day regimen of oral clindamycin.109
Regardless of regimen used, relapse or recurrence is common;109 110 120 122 138 153 162 an alternative regimen (e.g., oral therapy when topical was used initially) may be used in such situations.109 122
Decubitus and Other Ulcers
Has been used intravaginally as an adjunct to oral metronidazole for treatment of trichomoniasis caused by Trichomonas vaginalis† in selected cases (e.g., refractory infections),156 205 but not included in CDC recommendations for treatment of trichomoniasis.109 Intravaginal metronidazole not effective used alone.114
Metronidazole Dosage and Administration
Prior to topical application, wash affected area with mild, nonirritating cleanser.1 2 180 184 207 To minimize risk of local irritation, some clinicians suggest application be delayed until about 15–20 minutes after skin cleansing.99
Intravaginal Topical Administration
If once-daily regimen used, use new vaginal applicator for each dose.214 If twice-daily regimen used, use new applicator each day; wash, rinse, and dry applicator after morning dose and discard after evening dose.214
Treatment in Nonpregnant Postmenarchal FemalesIntravaginal
0.75% gel: One applicatorful (approximately 37.5 g of metronidazole) once daily (at bedtime) or twice daily (in morning and evening) given for 5 consecutive days.214
Treatment in Nonpregnant WomenIntravaginal
Cautions for Metronidazole
Seizures and Peripheral Neuropathy
Psychotic reactions reported in alcoholic patients receiving oral metronidazole and disulfiram concurrently;183 214 disulfiram-like reactions to alcohol reported in patients receiving oral metronidazole.106 183 214 Similar reactions could occur with intravaginal metronidazole.183 214
Avoid intravaginal metronidazole in patients who have received disulfiram within the last 2 weeks.183 214 Caution patients to avoid drinking alcohol while being treated with intravaginal metronidazole.183 214 (See Specific Drugs under Interactions.)
History of Blood Dyscrasia
Vaginal Intercourse and Use of Vaginal Products
Patients treated with vaginal gel should not engage in vaginal intercourse111 112 113 183 214 and should not use other vaginal products (tampons, douches) during entire treatment course.111 112 113 214
Vaginal intercourse or other vaginal products could reduce efficacy of intravaginal metronidazole (e.g., by dislodgment and/or dilution, by increased vaginal pH secondary to deposition of semen).111 112 113 214
Symptoms of known or previously unrecognized vaginal candidiasis may become more prominent during intravaginal metronidazole therapy.183 214 Symptomatic Candida vaginitis reported during or immediately after therapy.183 214
Systemic Adverse Effects
Although topical application to skin results in lower systemic absorption than oral or IV administration, adverse systemic effects (e.g., metallic taste,1 180 207 nausea,1 180 207 paresthesia,184 tingling or numbness of extremities1 180 207 ) have been reported with topical metronidazole.1 180
Although intravaginal administration results in lower systemic absorption than oral or IV administration, consider possibility that adverse effects reported with systemic metronidazole could occur when drug is given intravaginally.115 119 183 214
Safety and efficacy of intravaginal metronidazole for treatment of bacterial vaginosis in pregnant women not established.109 119 183 214 Existing data do not support use of intravaginal agents during pregnancy and intravaginal metronidazole not included in current CDC recommendations for treatment of bacterial vaginosis in pregnant women.109
One manufacturer states safety and efficacy of vaginal gel established in postmenarchal females based on extrapolation of data from adult women; safety and efficacy of vaginal gel not established in premenarchal females.214
Safety and efficacy of topical gel in geriatric patients ≥65 years of age appear similar to those in younger adults.1
Insufficient experience with vaginal gel in patients ≥65 years of age to determine whether geriatric patients respond differently than younger adults.214
Common Adverse Effects
Intravaginal administration: Vaginal discharge,183 symptomatic Candida cervicitis/vaginitis,183 fungal infection,214 vulvovaginal irritation,183 dysmenorrhea,214 GI effects (abdominal pain, GI discomfort, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea),183 214 headache,183 214 pruritus.214
Interactions for Metronidazole
Because metronidazole can be absorbed systemically following topical application to skin1 2 9 10 21 47 207 or following intravaginal administration,119 131 132 183 214 the possibility that drug and laboratory test interactions could occur with these routes should be considered.106 183 f
Specific Drugs and Laboratory Tests
Disulfiram-like reactions reported rarely when alcohol ingested during intravaginal metronidazole treatment;106 183 214 such reactions not reported to date with topical application of metronidazole to skin21 47 61 99
Anticoagulants, oral (warfarin)
Consider possibility of increased metronidazole adverse effects182
Tests based on ultraviolet (UV) absorbance
Falsely decreased serum concentrations (including undetectable concentrations) of AST, ALT, LDH, triglycerides, or hexokinase glucose may be reported during metronidazole therapy if results are based on decreases in UV absorbance that occur during oxidation-reduction of NADH/NAD30 183 214
Following repeated topical application to the face of 1% cream (approximately 3.75 mg per dose) in adults with rosacea, serum concentrations were minimal or undetectable.9 Following topical application to the face of 1 g of 1% cream in healthy individuals, serum concentrations were minimal or undetectable and peak serum concentrations were attained within 8–12 hours after the dose.184
Following topical application to the face of 1 g of 1% topical gel in adults with rosacea, peak serum concentrations of metronidazole were attained 6–10 hours after the dose and were <1% of concentrations reported with a single 250-mg oral dose.1
Following topical application to the face of 1 g of 0.75% topical lotion (approximately 7.5 mg of metronidazole) twice daily for 4 days, drug was detectable in plasma of all patients and peak plasma concentrations were approximately 80 times lower than peak concentrations attained with a single 250-mg oral dose.207
Following intravaginal administration of 5 g of 0.75% vaginal gel (approximately 37.5 mg of metronidazole) in healthy women, peak serum concentrations were attained 4–17 hours after the dose and were approximately 2% of that attained after a single 500-mg oral dose.119 132 183 186 214
Distributed into milk following oral or IV administration;1 30 45 56 131 180 183 184 207 214 not known whether distributed into milk following topical application to skin1 or intravaginal administration.183
20–25°C (may be exposed to 15–30°C).1
20–25°C; do not freeze.207
MetroGel-Vaginal: 15–30°C; do not freeze.183
Vandazole: 20–25°C; do not freeze.214
Un-ionized at physiologic pH49 and readily taken up by anaerobic organisms or cells.48 49 50 56 72 In susceptible organisms or cells, metronidazole reduced by low-redox-potential electron transport proteins (e.g., nitroreductases such as ferredoxin);48 49 50 56 64 65 66 68 69 70 71 72 the reduction product(s) apparently are responsible for cytotoxic and antimicrobial effects of the drug (e.g., disruption of DNA, inhibition of nucleic acid synthesis).48 56 63 64 65 66 67 68 70 71 72
Mechanism of reducing inflammatory lesions (papules and pustules) and erythema in patients with rosacea not elucidated to date;1 2 6 10 11 17 19 21 28 29 184 207 these effects may result from anti-inflammatory or immunosuppressive actions of the drug.1 2 3 10 17 28 29 207
Suppression of skin bacteria does not appear to play a major role in the mechanism of action of the drug in treatment of inflammatory lesions of rosacea;2 10 11 29 inactive in vitro against Propionibacterium acnes,2 4 5 48 staphylococci, and streptococci,2 48 and has no appreciable effects on the aerobic or anaerobic microflora of the skin of patients with rosacea.2 10 29
Spectrum of activity includes most obligately anaerobic bacteria2 7 29 30 45 48 53 56 64 and many protozoa.2 29 30 48 52 64 Inactive against fungi2 3 48 and viruses48 and most aerobic or facultatively anaerobic bacteria.2 7 30 45 48 73 74
Gram-positive anaerobes: Active against Clostridium,2 30 45 48 53 55 C. difficile,54 55 C. perfringens,48 55 Eubacterium,2 30 45 48 53 54 Peptococcus,2 30 45 48 53 54 55 and Peptostreptococcus.2 7 30 45 48 53 55 124 128 Actinomyces, Lactobacillus,48 Propionibacterium acnes,2 4 5 48 P. avidum,5 and P. granulosum5 generally are resistant.
Gram-negative anaerobes: Active against Bacteroides fragilis,2 3 30 45 48 53 54 55 124 126 130 B. distasonis,30 45 54 55 124 B. ovatus,30 45 55 124 B. thetaiotaomicron,30 45 54 55 124 B. vulgatus,30 45 54 55 124 B. ureolyticus,124 126 Fusobacterium,2 7 30 45 48 53 55 Prevotella bivia,53 124 126 128 129 P. disiens,54 128 P. intermedia,7 124 P. melaninogenica,48 54 124 126 128 129 P. oralis,54 124 126 129 Porphyromonas,124 129 and Veillonella.7 54 55
Other organisms: Active against Campylobacter fetus.48 Most strains of Gardnerella vaginalis (formerly Haemophilus vaginalis) are susceptible only to relatively high concentrations in vitro.119 126 129 135 140 141 142 Concentrations readily achievable locally (750 mcg/mL) following intravaginal application of 0.75% vaginal gel have inhibited approximately 90% of strains tested in vitro.119 177
Natural and acquired resistance has been reported in some T. vaginalis.48 52 75 76 77 78 79 Resistance also reported rarely in B. fragilis and other anaerobic bacteria following long-term therapy.44 48 215
Advice to Patients
Advise patients that vaginal gel is for intravaginal administration only and to avoid contact with eyes.183 214 (See Administration under Dosage and Administration.) If such contact occurs, importance of irrigating eyes with copious amounts of cool water.177 183
Instruct patients receiving vaginal gel regarding appropriate use of vaginal applicator.f
Importance of informing clinicians of existing or contemplated concomitant therapy, including prescription and OTC drugs, as well as any concomitant illnesses.
Importance of women informing clinicians if they are or plan to become pregnant or plan to breast-feed.
Importance of informing patients of other important precautionary information. (See Cautions.)
Excipients in commercially available drug preparations may have clinically important effects in some individuals; consult specific product labeling for details.
Please refer to the ASHP Drug Shortages Resource Center for information on shortages of one or more of these preparations.
* available from one or more manufacturer, distributor, and/or repackager by generic (nonproprietary) name
MetroCream (with benzyl alcohol)
Noritate (with parabens)
MetroGel (with parabens and propylene glycol)
MetroGel-Vaginal (with parabens and propylene glycol; with vaginal applicators)
Vandazole (with parabens and propylene glycol; with vaginal applicators)
AHFS DI Essentials. © Copyright, 2016, American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, Inc., 7272 Wisconsin Avenue, Bethesda, Maryland 20814.
Date published: June 01, 2006
Last reviewed: July 01, 2007
Date modified: February 08, 2016
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