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What Is Meropenem?

By Andy Josiah
Updated Feb 19, 2024
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Meropenem is an antibiotic used to treat a variety of bacterial infections. It is classified as a beta-lactam, which is a cyclic amide that has a molecular structure comprising three carbon atoms and one nitrogen atom. As a beta-lactam antibiotic, meropenem belongs to a class of drugs called carbapenem, which are characterized by the possession of a broad spectrum of antibacterial activity. This makes it similar to antibiotics such as imipenem and ertapenem. Meropenem is also known by the brand names Carbonem, Merrem, Meronem, Neopenem and Zwipen.

The Meropenem medication works by suppressing bacterial wall synthesis. Notably, it is resistant to the degradation of enzymes such as beta-lactamase, and it is a great penetrator of body fluids and tissues. Meropenem is most commonly used to fight meningitis and pneumonia. These are inflammatory conditions that affect the covering membranes of the brain and spinal cord and the lung, respectively. Meropenem is also used for bacterial infections of the bone, skin, urinary tract and stomach.

Doctors look for a large muscle such as the hip or buttock to inject the drug. In some cases, however, they might add meropenem to a pouch of intravenous (IV) fluid, allowing the antibiotic to pass into the patient's vein. Physicians apply the IV method for up to 15 minutes, one to three times daily.

Those who plan on taking meropenem must tell their doctors of any allergies to pharmaceuticals such as cephalexin, whose brand name is Keflex; cephalosporins such as cefaclor, brand name Ceclor; cefadroxil, brand name Duricef; and penicillin. Physicians should also be informed if the patient has suffered or is suffering from kidney or liver disease. People who take meropenem may experience some side effects. They include dry mouth, diarrhea, constipation, headache, indigestion, injection-site inflammation and stomach problems.

More serious side effects of meropenem include dizziness, fatigue, seizures and sleepiness. Any of these signs require immediate medical attention. There have been some reported cases of people with hypokalemia, or a lowering of the blood's amount of potassium, which is associated with the administration of meropenem.

Regarding legal status, meropenem is available as a prescription medicine in the United States and the United Kingdom. In the former, the drug was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1996. The FDA places it in category B of its classification of pharmaceutical fetal risk. It is one of the FDA's milder rankings, thus making meropenem a relatively low-risk drug for pregnant patients.

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