and Augmentin XR®
are similar but slightly different products. This article applies only to regular Augmentin products (not ES or XR).
Brand-name Augmentin is made by GlaxoSmithKline. Generic Augmentin
is made by several different manufacturers.
Augmentin contains two different medications: amoxicillin
and clavulanate potassium (also known as clavulanic acid or simply clavulanate). It belongs to a group of medications known as aminopenicillins, which is part of a larger group of medications known as beta-lactam antibiotics (named after the ring-like "lactam" structure of these antibiotics). Amoxicillin works by stopping bacteria from making cell walls, which eventually causes the bacteria to die. However, many bacteria have developed resistance to amoxicillin and similar antibiotics by producing enzymes called beta-lactamases. Beta-lactamases break the beta-lactam ring, making amoxicillin and similar antibiotics ineffective.
The other component of Augmentin (clavulanate) is known as a beta-lactamase inhibitor. Clavulanate binds to bacterial beta-lactamase and stops the enzymes from breaking down the amoxicillin molecule. Clavulanate itself has no significant antibacterial activity; it merely helps to prevent amoxicillin from being broken down by bacteria that would otherwise be resistant to it. Essentially, clavulanate "augments" the activity of amoxicillin (hence the name Augmentin).