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Amoxicillin and clavulanate are two medications combined together to make the antibiotic, Augmentin®. This drug was developed by Beecham (GlaxoSmithKline®) in the 1970s and has since seen wide use. It may be prescribed for adults or children and comes in tablet, chewable tablet, or oral suspension form; there is also a version for pets. The UK has a form of the medicine that is delivered intravenously for hospital use, but this is not available in the US. Amoxicillin and clavulanate may be recommended when amoxicillin alone is not adequate, and it treats a host of disorders like throat infections, ear infections, sinus infections, bronchitis, pneumonia and others.
The action of clavulanate can dictate the types of bacteria that Augmentin® will best treat. Clavulanate is seldom used alone because it doesn’t work effectively against bacteria, but it does function as a beta-lactamase inhibitor. Beta-lactamase makes bacterial cells more resistant to antibiotics, so its inhibition is needed to treat certain bacteria. Where amoxicillin alone might fail in the presence of bacteria that can create beta-lactamase, the combination of amoxicillin and clavulanate may be effective, though there is evidence that, like many antibacterials, some germs have evolved that resist this medication.
As amoxicillin and clavulanate can treat many conditions and is used in pediatric and adult populations, the amount used and duration of treatment may vary. It is important to note that liquid versions of the drug need to be refrigerated between uses. Patients may also render the treatment ineffective or contribute to the growing list of superbugs if they fail to finish a full prescription, even if they feel better. Bacteria can rebound with stronger ability to fight the medicine.
The benefits of Augmentin® are clear with certain infections, but this won’t always be a doctor’s choice for treatment. First, it is not available to people who are allergic to penicillin because amoxicillin stimulates this allergy. Second, its usefulness in treating bacteria that don’t produce beta-lactamase is questionable.
As with most antibiotics, in addition to allergy, which may manifest as swelling of the lips, face, mouth, and tongue and development of hives, asthma, and difficulty breathing, amoxicillin and clavulanate may cause other, mostly minor side effects. It may result in minor upset stomach, diarrhea, yeast infection, or thrush. If taking the drug causes excessive diarrhea or vomiting, bloody urine, decreased urination, seizures, or edema in the lower extremities, patients should get immediate medical attention. These may be signs of extreme reactions and new treatment is probably warranted.