Ciprofloxacin is a broad spectrum fluoroquinolone antibacterial agent. Since its introduction in the 1980s, most Gram-negative bacteria have remained highly susceptible to this agent in vitro; Gram-positive bacteria are generally susceptible or moderately susceptible. Ciprofloxacin attains therapeutic concentrations in most tissues and body fluids. The results of clinical trials with ciprofloxacin have confirmed its clinical efficacy and low potential for adverse effects. Ciprofloxacin is effective in the treatment of a wide variety of infections, particularly those caused by Gram-negative pathogens. These include complicated urinary tract infections, sexually transmitted diseases (gonorrhoea and chancroid), skin and bone infections, gastrointestinal infections caused by multiresistant organisms, lower respiratory tract infections (including those in patients with cystic fibrosis), febrile neutropenia (combined with an agent which possesses good activity against Gram-positive bacteria), intra-abdominal infections (combined with an antianaerobic agent) and malignant external otitis. Ciprofloxacin should not be considered a first-line empirical therapy for respiratory tract infections if penicillin-susceptible Streptococcus pneumoniae is the primary pathogen; however, it is an appropriate treatment option in patients with mixed infections (where S. pneumoniae may or may not be present) or in patients with predisposing factors for Gram-negative infections. Clinically important drug interactions involving ciprofloxacin are well documented and avoidable with conscientious prescribing. Recommended dosage adjustments in patients with impaired renal function vary between countries; major adjustments are not required until the estimated creatinine clearance is < 30 ml/min/1.73m2 (or when the serum creatinine level is > or = 2 mg/dl). Ciprofloxacin is one of the few broad spectrum antibacterials available in both intravenous and oral formulations. In this respect, it offers the potential for cost savings with sequential intravenous and oral therapy in appropriately selected patients and may allow early discharge from hospital in some instances. In conclusion, ciprofloxacin has retained its excellent activity against most Gram-negative bacteria, and fulfilled its potential as an important antibacterial drug in the treatment of a wide range of infections. Rational prescribing will help to ensure the continued clinical usefulness of this valuable antimicrobial drug.