Compare UTI Treatments: Natural vs. Antibiotics, Side Effects, Cost

Written by Rebecca Farley | Reviewed by a licensed U.S. pharmacist | Posted February 04, 2021 | Updated April 06, 2021

A urinary tract infection (UTI) occurs when bacteria from the environment — from your rectum or from a sexual partner, for example — get inside your urethra, leading to an infection in the bladder. (In more severe infections, kidney infections may occur as well.) Many different bacteria can cause infection; Escherichia coli, the bacteria known for its role in infecting lettuce, can cause a UTI. Urinary tract infections can be painful. They result in painful urination and an uncomfortable lingering sensation that you have to pee (even though you don’t). You may also see blood in your urine.

UTIs are particularly pesky because they are incredibly common — the most common urological disease in the U.S., and responsible for well over 6 million office visits a year — and impossible to treat without a provider. Only prescription antibiotics can treat a UTI.

How do you treat UTIs? 

UTIs go away with antibiotics, although this is increasingly problematic as antibiotics have their own symptoms. (For example, antibiotics can change the environment near the vagina, resulting in a yeast infection. You may trade one infection for another; it’s not a great deal.) Antibiotics require a prescription from a licensed provider. If you wish to get treatment for what you believe is a urinary tract infection, you must see a provider, who can diagnose the malady and prescribe treatment. 

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What is the best over-the-counter UTI treatment?

Only prescription antibiotics can clear a UTI. Over-the-counter medication may prevent UTIs or provide relief, but they cannot treat the infection itself. The pharmaceutical company Azo manufactures products that can soothe UTI-related pain and may be able to prevent further infection. Products include Azo Urinary Tract Defense and Azo Urinary Pain Relief Tablets. But even Azo admits that its products are not a cure. The company’s website reads as follows: 

The only clinically proven cure for a UTI is a prescription antibiotic. AZO Urinary Tract Defense will only help inhibit the progression of infection until you see a healthcare professional. AZO is not intended to replace medical care.”

Azo’s products are modestly priced, although PharmacyChecker’s U.S. Discount Card can offer up to a 41% discount on the medication. Products like Uquora’s UTI emergency kit, a millennial-branded product not unlike Azo, tend to be more expensive. See a comparison chart, below.

OTC UTI Prevention Therapy Prices

Drug  Strength Quantity Sample U.S. Retail Price Price with PharmacyChecker U.S. Discount Card 
Azo Cranberry 250mg  60 tablets $7.74 $13.95
Azo Urinary Pain Relief 95mg 9 tablets $2.87 $4.73
Uqora Complete System (Contains 1 month supply of three different kinds of UTI-preventative supplements) $80 N/A

Sample U.S. retail prices based on Wal-Mart prices near 70119. U.S. Discount card prices according to pharmacies near the ZIP code 70119.

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What does cranberry juice do for a UTI? 

Cranberry juice is famous for its apparent ability to treat UTIs. The trouble is, cranberry doesn’t treat UTIs. Like Azo’s products, cranberry juice may prevent infections, but even here, the science is relatively loose. In a letter published in 2020 in response to a petition from Ocean Spray, Inc. (makers of cranberry juice), the FDA called evidence supporting cranberry’s UTI-prevention abilities “limited and inconsistent.” The agency stipulated that cranberry beverages hoping to wear this claim on their labels should include the following statement: 

Consuming one serving (8 oz) each day of [this identified cranberry juice beverage] may help reduce the risk of recurrent urinary tract infection (UTI) in healthy women. FDA has concluded that the scientific evidence supporting this claim is limited and inconsistent.” 

Nevertheless, cranberry juice and cranberry supplements have been under the scientific microscope several times, with each study seemingly supporting the claim that they can prevent urinary tract infections. A systematic review of cranberry/UTI studies published in 2017 found that, on average, cranberry supplements reduced incidence of a UTI by 26%. Cranberry juice does not cure a UTI already in place. In clinical studies, participants used cranberry juice regularly as a preventative. Studies measured the frequency of UTIs during routine cranberry treatment. 

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What are the side effects of UTI treatment? 

Antibiotics for UTIs can result in nausea and dizziness. Some antibiotic treatment can lead to additional infections; check with your provider if you feel sick following antibiotic treatment. 

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How much does prescription UTI treatment cost? 

UTI treatment can be low-cost, especially because many antibiotics have generic alternatives. Ciprofloxacin, a popular treatment for UTIs, is just $20 for fourteen tablets. UTIs are acute infections, so treatment can be as short as a couple of days and as long as two weeks. International accredited pharmacies can save you up to 98% on some medications, but, if you are in pain, getting medication from a local pharmacy using this U.S. Pharmacy Discount Card may provide more swift relief. 

Comparing UTI Antibiotic Treatment Costs

Drug Strength Quantity  U.S. Average Retail Price Lowest International Pharmacy Price U.S. Discount Card Price Greatest Percentage Discount
Cipro (ciprofloxacin)  500 mg  14 tablets $110.37 $51.52  $85.21 53%
Ciprofloxacin (generic) 500 mg  14 tablets $20.84  $5.18 $2.94 86% 
Levaquin (Levafloxacin) 500 mg  10 tablets $386.95  $6.70 N/A  98% 
Levafloxacin (generic) 500 mg  10 tablets  $112.74 $4.28  $3.09 97% 

Average U.S. retail price sourced from GoodRx.com. Local discounts and international pricing are listed on PharmacyChecker.com.

 
 

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