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A team of researchers at the pharmaceutical company Pliva —Gabrijela Kobrehel, Gorjana Radobolja-Lazarevski, and Zrinka Tamburašev, led by Dr. Slobodan Đokić—discovered azithromycin in 1980. It was patented in 1981. In 1986, Pliva and Pfizer signed a licensing agreement, which gave Pfizer exclusive rights for the sale of azithromycin in Western Europe and the United States. Pliva put its azithromycin on the market in Central and Eastern Europe under the brand name Sumamed in 1988. Pfizer launched azithromycin under Pliva's license in other markets under the brand name Zithromax in 1991. 
Although antibiotics are prescribed frequently, misuse of these drugs can contribute to the emergence of resistant bacteria that is more difficult, or even impossible, to combat. It is also likely to have a negative effect on the immune system. For instance, during the bacterial attack, some good bacteria are also killed. The most common of these good guys are responsible for the production of B vitamins and lactase, as well as aiding in fighting tumors, lowering high cholesterol levels, and improving digestion. Without these friendly bacteria, the body is more susceptible to other pathogens that can cause immunological, neurological, or endocrinologic problems. This overgrowth of pathogens such as yeast (Candidiasis) has been linked to food allergies, autoimmune disorders, and chemical sensitivities, among others.