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Altabax ointment is available by prescription and is used for treating a common skin infection known as impetigo. This medication works by preventing certain bacteria from growing and multiplying. This ointment is applied in a thin layer on the affected area twice a day for five days. Common side effects include headaches, diarrhea, and skin irritation.

What Is Altabax?

Altabax® (retapamulin) is a prescription skin ointment approved to treat impetigo, a common skin infection, in adults and children who are nine months of age and older.
(Click Altabax Uses for more information on this topic, including possible off-label uses.)

Who Makes Altabax?

Altabax is made by GlaxoSmithKline.

How Does It Work?

Altabax works by inhibiting part of bacterial ribosomes, which are parts of cells that make proteins necessary for the bacteria to grow and multiply. The medication specifically inhibits the 50S subunit of the ribosome. Because human cells do not have a 50S subunit, they are spared from the effects of the antibiotic.
Altabax works in a different way than other antibiotics that inhibit the 50S subunit, which means it is in a class by itself. In fact, it is the first in a new class of medications known as pleuromutilin antibiotics.

When and How to Take Altabax

Some general considerations to keep in mind during treatment with Altabax include the following:
  • Apply this medication in a thin layer twice a day for five days. Apply it only on the affected areas, as it should not be applied to a large area of the skin.
  • Do not swallow the ointment or apply it to the eyes, in the nose, on the mouth or lips, or other mucous membranes.
  • You may cover the treated area with a bandage or gauze, if desired. This may be especially helpful for young children to prevent them from licking the ointment or getting it in their eyes.
  • For Altabax to work properly, it must be taken as prescribed. Take it for the full length of time your healthcare provider recommends, even if you see improvement sooner.
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