Rifabutin (Oral)

Rifabutin, better known under its American brand name of Mycobutin, is a drug that is commonly used in the prevention of Mycobacterium avium complex in patients who are HIV positive.


The drug is an antibiotic that is used to prevent the spread of MAC bacteria throughout the body. It does not prevent the spread of viruses and should not be prescribed in these circumstances. The drug is taken orally and is available on prescription from a healthcare professional in capsule form. It is not available over the counter and must be taken under the supervision of a medical professional with a good knowledge of the patient's medical history and any potential interactions with other drugs.

Rifabutin will generally be prescribed to patients with suppressed immune systems, primarily to those who are suffering from the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, better known as HIV. HIV is not an illness that kills in itself. Instead, it weakens a patients immune system and allows other viruses that would normally be easily fought off by a patient's immune system to attack the body and cause serious harm or death. This is one of the reasons why HIV related outcomes can vary so significantly between patients, even those from similar areas who have been under similar medical regimes.

It's also important that any patient who is prescribed Rifabutin takes advice from their doctor on how often it should be taken. Once this advice has been sought, it is essential to stick to the plan since the protective effects of Rifabutin build up over the course of several doses. If any doses are missed, the effect can be reduced and it can take some time for it to be rebuilt, leaving the patient open to the dangers of infection during this time. As with all drugs, the course should be discontinued on the advice of a medical professional and it is important that the patient regularly consult their doctor to ensure that the medicine is not having any unwanted effects and remains the best possible course of treatment. If a patient is taking Rifabutin and there is any change to their other medication, then it is important that a doctor reviews the treatment to ensure that it remains appropriate.

Conditions Treated

  • HIV related illnesses

Type of Medicine

  • Antibiotic

Side Effects

Like almost any drug, there are a number of side effects that have been experienced by patients who are prescribed Rifabutin. The discomfort and pain caused by these side effects have to be balanced against the benefits that come from taking the drug. In most cases, the side effects are minor and significantly outweighed by the benefits that are associated with taking the drug. However, if a patient suffers from multiple side effects or a more severe affliction, then they should consult their doctor to see if any changes can be made to the drug, dosages prescribed, the intervals at which they take it or other drugs in their medical regimen to reduce the impact of the side effects.

There are a number of relatively mild side effects that have been reported by patients taking Rifabutin. These can include:

  • Red or brown discoloration of the skin and bodily fluids including urine, tears, sweat, saliva and stools
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Painful urination
  • Loss of appetite, belching and bloating
  • Headache
  • Stomach pain
  • Mild skin rash and irritation

In some cases, it is possible to treat these conditions with the usual over the counter medications that most people would purchase. However, before starting to take any of these, it is very important that the patient contacts a medical professional to ensure that their chosen remedy does not have any known negative interactions with Rifabutin or any of the other drugs that they are taking.

As well as the mild side effects that have been reported, there are also more serious side effects. Patients may wish to consider contacting their doctor immediately should any of the side effects in the list below occur. In some cases, it will be possible to move the patient on to another drug or vary the dose of Rifabutin that they are taking in order to reduce the discomfort that is being caused by the drug. However, in other cases it will not be possible to reduce the intake of Rifabutin and the doctor and patient will have to explore other changes that can be made to the drugs they are taking or the possibility of using other medications to reduce some of the side effects that are inherent to a patient's use of Rifabutin.

The more severe side effects associated with Rifabutin use can include:

  • Eye pain or redness and vision loss

Thia is one of the most commonly reported severe side effects of Rifabutin. Whilst the condition can initially be alarming, it is very important that a patient does not discontinue their use of Rifabutin without consulting a doctor if this condition occurs. This can allow the bacteria that Rifabutin should eliminate to regrow and, in some cases, become immune to Rifabutin and other drugs in its class. As with all the side effects we've previously mentioned, patients should consult a doctor in the event that vision loss occurs and start work on a plan that allows the patient to mitigate or entirely avoid this side effect. This will not be possible in all cases but it is very important to inform your doctor of side effects at the first opportunity so that they can help you to manage their impact and your overall medication.

  • Pale skin, weakness, easy bleeding or bruising

This is a condition that can be caused by many drugs, including most of those in Rifabutin's class. The easiest way to prevent this side effect from causing any problems is by trying to avoid situations in which injury may occur as much as possible. This may mean that it is wise to avoid any contact or extreme sports during a course of Rifabutin. However, it's also important to consider much more minor injuries such as scratches from household pets, paper cuts and other minor bumps and bruises that would not normally cause a problem. If your blood is unable to clot effectively then even a fairly minor cut could cause significant bleeding and require significantly more treatment than would usually be the case. If you notice yourself having a particularly extreme reaction to any normal cut or bruise then contact your doctor and let them know. You should also not hesitate to seek medical attention for the type of scratch or cut that you would normally feel confident about dealing with at home. Taking Rifabutin means that these incidents could quickly become serious if they are not dealt with quickly.

  • Trouble Sleeping

This can be one of the most irritating side effects of drugs in Rifabutin's class. As tempting as it may be to turn to sleeping pills in order to get around a poor night's sleep, particularly if you have work or family commitments during the day that are being negatively impacted by a poor night of sleep, it's critical that you talk to a doctor first. A disrupted sleep pattern could mean that Rifabutin is less effective than your doctor believes and if you don't tell your doctor about these types of issues then they won't be able to treat you as well as they otherwise could without having a full understanding of the problems and side effects that you are experiencing.

  • Unusual tiredness or weakness

This is a side effect that many patients struggle to define or notice. If their consumption of Rifabutin coincides with another medical problem then it can be all too easy to write off unusual feelings of tiredness or weakness as a consequence of another illness rather than Rifabutin. This is why it's important that patients discuss all symptoms that could be due to a side effect of a drug they are taking with their doctor so that they can evaluate the situation and draw a conclusion about what is actually happening. Whilst patients are often reluctant to be seen as complaining or taking up their doctor's time with issues that they may believe are trivial in comparison to the overall condition that is being treated, it is actually essential that the patient has conversations like this with their doctor so that they have access to as much information as possible regarding the patient's overall health picture.


The dosage of Rifabutin that is prescribed can vary significantly depending on the patient's weight, size and other physical attributes, any other drugs that they are taking and the severity of the condition that Rifabutin is being prescribed to treat. For this reason, there is no standard dosage that has been recommended by the drug's manufacturer. When Rifabutin is prescribed, the doctor should follow available guidance and make a dosage decision based on the individual needs of their patient.


All drugs can have negative interactions with other drugs, even common over the counter medications. For this reason, it is very important that a patient's doctor knows about all of the medication that they are taking and regularly reviews their medications to avoid any negative interactions occurring. In some cases, the patient should become their own advocate and ensure that they are aware of any common negative interactions with Rifabutin to avoid prescribing mistakes being made by any healthcare professionals that are new to their particular case.


Rifabutin is an antibiotic and should only be taken under instruction. Be sure to store the drug carefully so that it cannot be accessed by anyone who has not been prescribed in and follow the dosage advice given by your doctor to ensure that the drug works effectively. Patients should be aware of the following conditions.

  • Skin irritation
  • Problems sleeping
  • Fever
  • Discoloration of bodily fluids
  • Eye pain, irritation and other optical problems
  • Stomach cramps and pains

This is not an exhaustive list and if a patient believes that any problems they are experiencing are related to their consumption of Rifabutin, a doctor should be consulted at the first possible opportunity.


Rifabutin is an oral capsule that can be stored in a cool dry place such as a medicine cover. It is an antibiotic and therefore should be kept out of reach and sight of children, pets or anyone else who may be tempted to take it. Rifabutin should not be taken without the explicit advice of a doctor or other prescribing professional. Any course that is given should be followed exactly, otherwise, the effectiveness of the drug may be significantly reduced and the virus that Rifabutin is designed to treat may build up an immunity to it and other drugs in its class. As the effectiveness of antibiotics can be reduced through overuse, it is important that patients stop taking Rifabutin at the end of the course that has been advised by their doctor.


In summary, Rifabutin is a drug that can be very effective in the treatment of conditions that are associated with suppressed immune systems such as HIV and AIDS. It can be an effective treatment for bacterias that can be particularly dangerous for patients whose immune systems have been compromised. As it is often taken in combination with several other strong medications with their own lists of significant side effects, it is important that doctors take time to review their patient's entire medicine plan before prescribing Rifabutin and regularly reviews this with their patient to ensure that there have been no unnoticed changes that could cause serious harm to a patient.

The list of side effects associated with Rifabutin is fairly similar to other antibiotics in its class. As it is often prescribed to patients who have been significantly weakened by illness, it can be difficult for them to identify side effects that have been caused by the drug rather than their original illness. For this reason, it is critical that the patient does not hesitate to raise any issues that they may be experiencing with their healthcare professional so that a joint decision can be taken about the medicine that the patient is using.

Rifabutin is a table that is taken orally. The dosage and frequency should be agreed between doctor and patient and followed carefully to ensure that the drug is as effective as possible.


Last Reviewed:
February 01, 2018
Last Updated:
January 27, 2018