Neosporin vs Bactroban

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For individuals with minor skin injuries such as cuts, scrapes or burns, certain topical antibiotic ointments like Neosporin and Bactroban can help in warding off infections and expedite the healing process. These two products function by inhibiting the growth of bacteria that could potentially infect the wound. Neosporin is a triple-antibiotic ointment that contains bacitracin, neomycin, and polymyxin B providing broad coverage for many types of bacteria commonly found on the skin. On the other hand, Bactroban (mupirocin) is a single-antibiotic ointment primarily effective against gram-positive bacteria including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Both have their place in managing minor wounds but their use should be tailored to individual patient needs and potential allergies.

What is Neosporin?

Neosporin and Bactroban are two topical antibiotics often used in the treatment of minor cuts, scrapes, or burns. Neosporin is an over-the-counter product containing three different antibiotics: neomycin sulfate, polymyxin B sulfate, and bacitracin zinc that work together to inhibit bacterial growth. It was first introduced by Johnson & Johnson company in 1954.

Bactroban (also known as mupirocin) is a prescription-only medication approved by FDA in 1987 which works differently than Neosporin; it inhibits bacterial protein synthesis thereby stopping their growth. It's particularly effective against gram-positive bacteria including MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus).

While both products aim at preventing infections from developing in wounds, they each have a distinct range of bacteria they are effective against. In contrast to Neosporin which has broad-spectrum activity due to its three antibiotic components, Bactroban specifically targets certain types of bacteria making it suitable for treating specific skin infections rather than general wound care.

What conditions is Neosporin approved to treat?

Neosporin and Bactroban are both used for the treatment of different bacterial skin infections:

  • Neosporin is a triple-antibiotic ointment used to prevent infection in minor cuts, scrapes, and burns.
  • Bactroban (mupirocin) is specifically approved for treating impetigo due to Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes. It can also be utilized as a decolonizing agent for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

How does Neosporin help with these illnesses?

Neosporin is a topical antibiotic commonly used to prevent infections in minor skin wounds like cuts and burns. It contains three different antibiotics: neomycin, polymyxin B, and bacitracin which work together by inhibiting the growth of bacteria that can cause infection.

On the other hand, Bactroban is a topical medication containing mupirocin, an antibiotic effective against certain types of bacteria including Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes. Mupirocin works by blocking an enzyme that these bacteria need to construct their cell walls. This disrupts the bacterial lifecycle and eradicates the infection.

While both Neosporin and Bactroban are effective at treating minor skin infections, they differ in their spectrum of activity against specific sets of bacteria. Furthermore, some people may be allergic to ingredients in Neosporin; thus making Bactroban a better option for them.

What is Bactroban?

Bactroban, the brand name for mupirocin, is a unique topical antibiotic that inhibits bacterial protein synthesis. It's particularly effective against gram-positive bacteria and certain gram-negative bacteria. Mupirocin was first approved by the FDA in 1987 and has since been used to treat minor skin infections such as impetigo.

Unlike Neosporin which is an over-the-counter triple-antibiotic ointment containing neomycin sulfate, polymyxin B sulfate, and bacitracin zinc, Bactroban requires a prescription. This makes it a more specialized treatment often reserved for specific diagnoses by healthcare professionals due to its targeted action on certain types of bacterial infections. Its side effect profile is also different from that of multi-ingredient products like Neosporin: common side effects include burning or stinging at the application site but systemic effects are rare due to minimal absorption into the bloodstream.

What conditions is Bactroban approved to treat?

Bactroban, a topical antibiotic, is approved for the treatment of certain types of skin infections such as:

  • Impetigo, a highly contagious skin infection that usually produces blisters or sores on the face, neck, hands and diaper area.
  • Secondary skin infections like infected wounds or cuts.

How does Bactroban help with these illnesses?

Bactroban is an antibiotic, which functions by interrupting the bacterial protein synthesis process and stopping bacterial growth in minor skin wounds. It specifically targets a range of bacteria including Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes, two common culprits behind skin infections. Unlike Neosporin which has a broad spectrum action covering multiple types of bacteria, Bactroban focuses on specific strains making it less likely to contribute to antibiotic resistance. Its unique mechanism of action allows it to efficiently aid in wound healing even when patients have not responded optimally to "typical" over-the-counter topical antibiotics like Neosporin or are allergic to one of its components. These characteristics make Bactroban often the choice for healthcare professionals dealing with localized skin infections.

How effective are both Neosporin and Bactroban?

Both neomycin/polymyxin B/bacitracin (Neosporin) and mupirocin (Bactroban) are topical antibiotics often used to prevent infection in minor wounds, burns or scrapes. Neosporin was approved by the FDA in 1954, while Bactroban followed years later in 1987. Both have a broad spectrum of action against Gram-positive bacteria and some Gram-negative bacteria.

In terms of effectiveness, both medications have been shown to be effective at preventing skin infections following surgical procedures[1]. In one double-blind study, there were no significant differences between the two drugs in terms of efficacy for impetigo treatment[2].

One key difference is that Neosporin contains three different antibiotics which can increase the risk of developing an allergic reaction. Contact dermatitis is a common side effect associated with Neosporin due to its multiple ingredients[3]. On the other hand, Bactroban only contains one active ingredient - mupirocin - which means it has less potential for causing an allergic reaction.

Overall, both treatments offer benefits but your healthcare provider may prescribe them under different circumstances based on individual needs and potential allergies.



abstract image of a researcher studying a bottle of drug.

At what dose is Neosporin typically prescribed?

Topical application of Neosporin should be applied in a thin layer on the affected area 1-3 times per day. It's generally safe for most people, including children and adolescents. However, some individuals may have allergies to one or more of its active ingredients. Bactroban, on the other hand, is typically prescribed by a healthcare provider at dosages specific to the individual patient's needs and condition. It can be applied up to three times daily for up to 10 days, but treatment duration will depend upon the severity and response of infection as judged by your doctor. As with any medication, it's crucial not to exceed recommended dosage unless directed by a medical professional.

At what dose is Bactroban typically prescribed?

Bactroban treatment typically begins with a small amount of the ointment applied to the affected area three times per day. It's recommended that each application be spaced out by 8-hour intervals for optimal coverage throughout the day. The maximum dosage is tied to the size of the wound or infection, but generally, no more than a pea-sized amount should be used at one time. If there is no noticeable improvement in symptoms after a few days of consistent use, it may be necessary to consult your healthcare provider about possible alternatives or additional treatments.

What are the most common side effects for Neosporin?

When comparing Neosporin to Bactroban, it's important to recognize that these are topical antibiotics and thus their side effects differ from systemic medications. However, some common side effects can occur with both:

  • Mild skin irritation or itching
  • Rash
  • Redness
  • Dry or peeling skin
  • Allergic reaction (rare)

If you experience any severe reactions such as difficulty breathing or swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat after applying either of these ointments, seek immediate medical attention.

abstract image of a patient experiencing side effect

Are there any potential serious side effects for Neosporin?

While both Neosporin and Bactroban are topical antibiotics used to prevent infections in minor cuts, scrapes, or burns, they may cause different side effects:

  • Allergic reactions: Seek immediate medical help if you experience any signs of an allergic reaction like rash; hives; itching; redness; swelling of the face, lips, tongue or throat; wheezing or trouble breathing.

  • Severity of skin irritation: If you notice your wound becoming excessively red, swollen or painful after application, discontinue use and contact your healthcare provider.

  • Eye-related problems: Although rare with these topical treatments, blurred vision or eye pain should be reported promptly.

  • Systemic symptoms: Unlikely with external use but watch for unusual tiredness/weakness/dizziness as it could indicate more serious issues such as low sodium levels.

Seek immediate professional help if you observe severe nervous system reactions like muscle stiffness/twitching/confusion/high fever/fast heartbeat. While serotonin syndrome is extremely unlikely from a topical antibiotic treatment like Neosporin or Bactroban, always report new/unusual symptoms to your healthcare provider.

What are the most common side effects for Bactroban?

Bactroban, like Neosporin, is an antibiotic ointment used to prevent wound infections. However, Bactroban may cause side effects such as:

  • Burning or stinging sensation at the application site
  • Itching or rash
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Abdominal pain In rare cases, it can lead to severe allergic reactions manifesting as difficulty breathing, facial swelling and hives. Always consult with a healthcare professional before starting a new medication and immediately report any adverse reactions experienced.

Are there any potential serious side effects for Bactroban?

While Bactroban is generally well-tolerated, some users can experience severe adverse reactions. If you notice any of the following symptoms after using Bactroban, it's important to seek medical attention immediately:

  • Signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficulty breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat
  • Severe stomach pain or diarrhea that is watery or bloody (even if these occur months after your last dose)
  • A skin rash that spreads and causes blistering and peeling
  • Unusual bleeding or bruising
  • Dark-coloured urine or pale stools
  • Jaundice - yellowing of the skin and eyes

Remember that while these side effects are rare, they could be serious. Always consult with a healthcare professional if you have concerns about potential risks associated with medication use.

Contraindications for Neosporin and Bactroban?

Both Neosporin and Bactroban, along with most other topical antibiotic ointments, may cause allergic reactions in some people. If you notice signs of an allergic reaction such as hives; difficulty breathing; or swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat after application of these ointments, seek immediate medical attention.

Neither Neosporin nor Bactroban should be used if you are taking certain types of medications. Always tell your physician which medications you are taking to avoid possible interactions. For instance, if you have been using other topical products on the same area where either Neosporin or Bactroban will be applied - including over-the-counter drugs and herbal supplements - it can potentially result in drug interaction leading to skin irritation or decreased effectiveness of the antibiotics.

It's also important to note that both these medicines should not be used for extended periods (more than a week) without consulting a healthcare professional. Prolonged use could lead to increased resistance making them less effective against bacteria in future infections.

How much do Neosporin and Bactroban cost?

For the brand name versions of these drugs:

  • The price for 30g tube of Neosporin ointment averages around $10, which works out to approximately $0.33/day if used three times daily.
  • The price for a 15g tube of Bactroban (mupirocin) is about $35, working out to approximately $2.33/day when applied three times per day.

Thus, if you are using a triple application regimen per day, then brand-name Neosporin is less expensive on a per-day treatment basis compared with Bactroban. Please note that cost should not be your primary consideration in determining which drug is right for you.

As far as generic versions are concerned:

  • Triple antibiotic (the equivalent to Neosporin) costs slightly lower than its branded counterpart at an average of around $7 for a 30g tube - roughly translating into about $.23/day if used thrice daily.
  • Mupirocin ointment (equivalent to Bactroban), costs range from about $20-$28 depending on the pharmacy and any insurance coverage you may have - meaning your per-day cost would be between approx$1.33-$1.87 based on typical usage guidelines.

Popularity of Neosporin and Bactroban

Neosporin, a popular over-the-counter topical antibiotic, is widely used for minor cuts and scrapes. In 2020, it was estimated that Neosporin was used by roughly 27 million people in the US. As an accessible first aid treatment available without prescription, it is often considered a household staple.

Bactroban (mupirocin), on the other hand, requires a prescription and is generally used to treat more serious bacterial skin infections or to eliminate bacteria from nasal passages in specific cases. In 2020, prescriptions for Bactroban were given to approximately 3.2 million individuals in the USA.

While both drugs are effective at preventing wound infection due to various bacteria types, Bactroban contains mupirocin which has been shown as more effective against certain strains of Staphylococcus aureus including MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). Thus while Neosporin remains prevalent across households due its availability and cost-effectiveness for minor wounds; Bactroban's use has seen steady application within healthcare settings where resistance may be concern.


Both Neosporin and Bactroban have robust histories of usage in the treatment of minor cuts, scrapes, and burns to prevent infection. They are backed by numerous clinical studies indicating their effectiveness in comparison to placebo treatments. While both ointments can be used independently, they should not be combined without a physician's guidance due to potential cross-reactions.

Neosporin is an over-the-counter multi-antibiotic ointment acting on several types of bacteria, while Bactroban (Mupirocin) is a prescription medication that targets a narrower range but includes MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). Thus, Bactroban may be prescribed when a specific type of bacterial infection is identified or suspected.

Both medications are available as generics which represent significant cost savings for patients paying out-of-pocket. The effects of these antibiotic creams should be noticeable relatively soon after application if the wound isn't severely infected.

The adverse reaction profile for both drugs is similar with local skin irritation being common but generally mild; however, allergic reactions such as rash can occur with either drug. It's essential for patients to monitor their symptoms closely after applying either topical antibiotic cream and seek immediate medical attention if there’s no improvement within 1-2 days or if symptoms worsen.