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FDA: Safe and Effective Use of Antibiotics

The FDA is urging consumers to "get smart" about antibiotic use, to help combat antibiotic resistance.

Antibiotics are drugs used for treating infections caused by bacteria. Also known as antimicrobial drugs, antibiotics have saved countless lives.

Misuse and overuse of these drugs, however, have contributed to a phenomenon known as antibiotic resistance. This resistance develops when potentially harmful bacteria change in a way that reduces or eliminates the effectiveness of antibiotics.

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FDA NOTE TO CORRESPONDENTS

For Immediate Release: Nov. 15, 2010
Media Inquiries: Erica Jefferson, 301-796-4988, erica.jefferson@fda.hhs.gov
Consumer Inquiries: 888-INFO-FDA

FDA Urges Consumers to be 'Smart' about Antibiotic Use
Agency partners with CDC to kick off Get Smart about Antibiotics Week

This year, millions of antibiotics will be prescribed. Antibiotics can be used to treat bacterial infections; however, they are commonly over-prescribed. Patients sometimes ask their health care professional to prescribe antibiotic drugs for viral infections, like the common cold, despite the fact that they will not work and may lead to potentially harmful side effects. The misuse of antibiotics has contributed to one of the world's most pressing public health problems today, antibiotic resistance.

Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria change in a way that reduces or eliminates the effectiveness of antibiotic drugs.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has teamed up with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other health care professional, government, academic, international and industry partners to support Get Smart About Antibiotics Week (Nov. 15-21) as part of a joint effort to encourage the appropriate use of antibiotics.

What happens when antibiotics are misused, leading to antibiotic resistance?

When antibiotics don't work, the result can be

  • longer illnesses
  • more complicated illnesses
  • more doctor visits
  • the use of stronger and more expensive drugs
  • more deaths caused by bacterial infections

Examples of the types of bacteria that have become resistant to antibiotics include the species that cause skin infections, meningitis, sexually transmitted diseases and respiratory tract infections such as pneumonia.

The FDA offers the following tips for using antibiotics properly:


  • Don't skip doses and take your medicine as prescribed. Antibiotics are most effective when taken as prescribed.


  • Don't save antibiotics. The drug is meant for a particular infection at that time. Don't use leftover medicine. Taking the wrong drug can delay the appropriate treatment and your infection might get worse.


  • Don't take antibiotics prescribed for others. Only a health care professional can determine the right treatment for your infection.

Click here for more information from the FDA.

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