Author(s): Ballow CH, Amsden GW
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Abstract OBJECTIVE: To discuss the chemistry, mechanism of action, spectrum of activity, pharmacokinetics, clinical trials, adverse-effect profile, drug interactions, and dosage guidelines of azithromycin, the first azalide antibiotic. DATA SOURCES: Pertinent literature published between 1988 and the present was identified via a MEDLINE search. Of 77 articles retrieved, 37 have been referenced. STUDY SELECTION: Azithromycin is a new agent, and as such, limited data regarding this drug are available in the literature. We evaluated all pharmacokinetic, microbiologic, and basic science articles pertaining to azithromycin, and reviewed the clinical efficacy trials that we believed were of good quality for each indication for which azithromycin has received approval to date. Comparative clinical trials involving large numbers of patients, clinical outcome assessments, and recommendations for azithromycin use are included. DATA SYNTHESIS: Azithromycin is a macrolide derivative and the first of the 15-membered ring azalide class of antimicrobials. Although its mechanism of action and susceptibility to resistance are similar to those of the macrolide antibiotics, azithromycin's extended spectrum of activity includes gram-positive and gram-negative organisms, as well as atypical pathogens. Azithromycin is stable at gastric pH and has an absolute bioavailability of approximately 37 percent following oral administration. Although its serum concentrations are typically low, the drug concentrates to a high degree in tissue. Azithromycin is cleared primarily by the biliary and fecal routes; its serum half-life is in excess of 60 hours. Several clinical trials have proven that a 5-day course of azithromycin administered once a day is equally efficacious to a 7- to 14-day course of other commonly used oral antimicrobials, administered two to four times a day, for the treatment of upper and lower respiratory tract and skin and skin-structure infections. Urethritis and cervicitis caused by chlamydia are treated with a single 1-g dose. Trials have shown azithromycin's adverse-effect profile to be equal or even superior to that of other agents, with only 0.7 percent of patients discontinuing therapy versus 2.6 percent for comparable drugs. CONCLUSIONS: Azithromycin represents a significant improvement in the treatment of selected community-acquired infections. Although this agent may revolutionize the treatment of sexually transmitted diseases caused by chlamydia, it also should impact the management of respiratory tract and skin and skin-structure infections. Because of its unique pharmacokinetics and excellent adverse-effect profile, patient compliance should be greatly enhanced compared with other commonly used oral antimicrobials. Azithromycin's primary role in the near future will be in the community setting. Although its use in the hospital may be limited, this drug will be a convenient therapeutic option to have on hand in the emergency room and outpatient clinic. Azithromycin may also be used in the future to treat opportunistic infections in immunocompromised patients.
This article was published in Ann Pharmacother
and referenced in Journal of Bioequivalence & Bioavailability