Mechanism of Action
Azithromycin acts by binding to the 23S rRNA of the 50S ribosomal subunit of susceptible microorganisms inhibiting bacterial protein synthesis and impeding the assembly of the 50S ribosomal subunit.
Azithromycin demonstrates cross resistance with erythromycin. The most frequently encountered mechanism of resistance to azithromycin is modification of the 23S rRNA target, most often by methylation. Ribosomal modifications can determine cross resistance to other macrolides, lincosamides, and streptogramin B (MLSB phenotype).
Azithromycin has been shown to be active against most isolates of the following microorganisms, both in vitro and in clinical infections. [see Indications and Usage (1)]
The following in vitro data are available, but their clinical significance is unknown. At least 90 percent of the following bacteria exhibit an in vitro minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) less than or equal to the susceptible breakpoint for azithromycin against isolates of similar genus or organism group. However, the efficacy of azithromycin in treating clinical infections caused by these bacteria has not been established in adequate and well-controlled clinical trials.
Beta-hemolytic streptococci (Groups C, F, G)
Viridans group streptococci
For specific information regarding susceptibility test interpretive criteria and associated test methods and quality control standards recognized by FDA for this drug, please see: https://www.fda.gov/STIC.
Long-term studies in animals have not been performed to evaluate carcinogenic potential. Azithromycin has shown no mutagenic potential in standard laboratory tests: mouse lymphoma assay, human lymphocyte clastogenic assay, and mouse bone marrow clastogenic assay. In fertility studies conducted in male and female rats, oral administration of azithromycin for 64 to 66 days (males) or 15 days (females) prior to and during cohabitation resulted in decreased pregnancy rate at 20 and 30 mg/kg/day when both males and females were treated with azithromycin. This minimal effect on pregnancy rate (approximately 12% reduction compared to concurrent controls) did not become more pronounced when the dose was increased from 20 to 30 mg/kg/day (approximately 0.4 to 0.6 times the adult daily dose of 500 mg based on body surface area) and it was not observed when only one animal in the mated pair was treated. There were no effects on any other reproductive parameters, and there were no effects on fertility at 10 mg/kg/day. The relevance of these findings to patients being treated with azithromycin at the doses and durations recommended in the prescribing information is uncertain.
Phospholipidosis (intracellular phospholipid accumulation) has been observed in some tissues of mice, rats, and dogs given multiple doses of azithromycin. It has been demonstrated in numerous organ systems (e.g., eye, dorsal root ganglia, liver, gallbladder, kidney, spleen, and/or pancreas) in dogs and rats treated with azithromycin at doses which, expressed on the basis of body surface area, are similar to or less than the highest recommended adult human dose. This effect has been shown to be reversible after cessation of azithromycin treatment. Based on the pharmacokinetic data, phospholipidosis has been seen in the rat (50 mg/kg/day dose) at the observed maximal plasma concentration of 1.3 mcg/mL (1.6 times the observed Cmax of 0.821 mcg/mL at the adult dose of 2 g). Similarly, it has been shown in the dog (10 mg/kg/day dose) at the observed maximal serum concentration of 1 mcg/mL (1.2 times the observed Cmax of 0.821 mcg/mL at the adult dose of 2 g). Phospholipidosis was also observed in neonatal rats dosed for 18 days at 30 mg/kg/day, which is less than the pediatric dose of 60 mg/kg based on the surface area. It was not observed in neonatal rats treated for 10 days at 40 mg/kg/day with mean maximal serum concentrations of 1.86 mcg/mL, approximately 1.5 times the Cmax of 1.27 mcg/mL at the pediatric dose. Phospholipidosis has been observed in neonatal dogs (10 mg/kg/day) at maximum mean whole blood concentrations of 3.54 mcg/mL, approximately 3 times the pediatric dose Cmax . The significance of these findings for animals and for humans is unknown.
Acute Bacterial Exacerbations of Chronic Bronchitis
In a randomized, double-blind controlled clinical trial of acute exacerbation of chronic bronchitis (AECB), azithromycin (500 mg once daily for 3 days) was compared with clarithromycin (500 mg twice daily for 10 days). The primary endpoint of this trial was the clinical cure rate at Days 21 to 24. For the 304 patients analyzed in the modified intent-to-treat analysis at the Days 21 to 24 visit, the clinical cure rate for 3 days of azithromycin was 85% (125/147) compared to 82% (129/157) for 10 days of clarithromycin.The following outcomes were the clinical cure rates at the Days 21 to 24 visit for the bacteriologically evaluable patients by pathogen:
|Pathogen||Azithromycin (3 Days)||Clarithromycin (10 Days)|
|S. pneumoniae||29/32 (91%)||21/27 (78%)|
|H. influenzae||12/14 (86%)||14/16 (88%)|
|M. catarrhalis||11/12 (92%)||12/15 (80%)|
Acute Bacterial Sinusitis
In a randomized, double-blind, double-dummy controlled clinical trial of acute bacterial sinusitis, azithromycin (500 mg once daily for 3 days) was compared with amoxicillin/clavulanate (500/125 mg three times a day for 10 days). Clinical response assessments were made at Day 10 and Day 28. The primary endpoint of this trial was prospectively defined as the clinical cure rate at Day 28. For the 594 patients analyzed in the modified intent to treat analysis at the Day 10 visit, the clinical cure rate for 3 days of azithromycin was 88% (268/303) compared to 85% (248/291) for 10 days of amoxicillin/clavulanate. For the 586 patients analyzed in the modified intent to treat analysis at the Day 28 visit, the clinical cure rate for 3 days of azithromycin was 71.5% (213/298) compared to 71.5% (206/288), with a 97.5% confidence interval of –8.4 to 8.3, for 10 days of amoxicillin/clavulanate. In an open label, non-comparative study requiring baseline transantral sinus punctures, the following outcomes were the clinical success rates at the Day 7 and Day 28 visits for the modified intent to treat patients administered 500 mg of azithromycin once daily for 3 days with the following pathogens:
|S. pneumoniae||23/26 (88%)||21/25 (84%)|
|H. influenzae||28/32 (87%)||24/32 (75%)|
|M. catarrhalis||14/15 (93%)||13/15 (87%)|
From the perspective of evaluating pediatric clinical trials, Days 11 to 14 were considered on-therapy evaluations because of the extended half-life of azithromycin. Days 11 to 14 data are provided for clinical guidance. Days 24 to 32 evaluations were considered the primary test of cure endpoint.
In three double-blind controlled studies, conducted in the United States, azithromycin (12 mg/kg once a day for 5 days) was compared to penicillin V (250 mg three times a day for 10 days) in the treatment of pharyngitis due to documented Group A β-hemolytic streptococci (GABHS or S. pyogenes). Azithromycin was clinically and microbiologically statistically superior to penicillin at Day 14 and Day 30 with the following clinical success (i.e., cure and improvement) and bacteriologic efficacy rates (for the combined evaluable patient with documented GABHS):
Three U.S. Streptococcal Pharyngitis Studies
Azithromycin vs. Penicillin V EFFICACY RESULTS
|Day 14||Day 30|
|Azithromycin||323/340 (95%)||255/330 (77%)|
|Penicillin V||242/332 (73%)||206/325 (63%)|
|Clinical Success (cure plus improvement):|
|Azithromycin||336/343 (98%)||310/330 (94%)|
|Penicillin V||284/338 (84%)||241/325 (74%)|
Approximately 1% of azithromycin-susceptible S. pyogenes isolates were resistant to azithromycin following therapy.
Acute Otitis Media
Efficacy using azithromycin given over 5 days (10 mg/kg on Day 1 followed by 5 mg/kg on Days 2 to 5).
In a double-blind, controlled clinical study of acute otitis media performed in the United States, azithromycin (10 mg/kg on Day 1 followed by 5 mg/kg on Days 2 to 5) was compared to amoxicillin/clavulanate potassium (4:1). For the 553 patients who were evaluated for clinical efficacy, the clinical success rate (i.e., cure plus improvement) at the Day 11 visit was 88% for azithromycin and 88% for the control agent. For the 521 patients who were evaluated at the Day 30 visit, the clinical success rate was 73% for azithromycin and 71% for the control agent.
In a non-comparative clinical and microbiologic trial performed in the United States, where significant rates of beta-lactamase producing organisms (35%) were found, 131 patients were evaluable for clinical efficacy. The combined clinical success rate (i.e., cure and improvement) at the Day 11 visit was 84% for azithromycin. For the 122 patients who were evaluated at the Day 30 visit, the clinical success rate was 70% for azithromycin.
Microbiologic determinations were made at the pre-treatment visit. Microbiology was not reassessed at later visits. The following clinical success rates were obtained from the evaluable group:
|Pathogen||Day 11||Day 30|
|S. pneumoniae||61/74 (82%)||40/56 (71%)|
|H. influenzae||43/54 (80%)||30/47 (64%)|
|M. catarrhalis||28/35 (80%)||19/26 (73%)|
|S. pyogenes||11/11 (100%)||7/7 (100%)|
|Overall||177/217 (82%)||97/137 (73%)|
In another controlled comparative clinical and microbiologic study of otitis media performed in the United States, azithromycin (10 mg/kg on Day 1 followed by 5 mg/kg on Days 2 to 5) was compared to amoxicillin/clavulanate potassium (4:1). This study utilized two of the same investigators as Protocol 2 (above), and these two investigators enrolled 90% of the patients in Protocol 3. For this reason, Protocol 3 was not considered to be an independent study. Significant rates of beta-lactamase producing organisms (20%) were found. Ninety-two (92) patients were evaluable for clinical and microbiologic efficacy. The combined clinical success rate (i.e., cure and improvement) of those patients with a baseline pathogen at the Day 11 visit was 88% for azithromycin vs. 100% for control; at the Day 30 visit, the clinical success rate was 82% for azithromycin vs. 80% for control.
Microbiologic determinations were made at the pre-treatment visit. Microbiology was not reassessed at later visits. At the Day 11 and Day 30 visits, the following clinical success rates were obtained from the evaluable group:
|Day 11||Day 30|
|S. pneumoniae||25/29 (86%)||26/26 (100%)||22/28 (79%)||18/22 (82%)|
|H. influenzae||9/11 (82%)||9/9 (100%)||8/10 (80%)||6/8 (75%)|
|M. catarrhalis||7/7 (100%)||5/5 (100%)||5/5 (100%)||2/3 (66%)|
|S. pyogenes||2/2 (100%)||5/5 (100%)||2/2 (100%)||4/4 (100%)|
|Overall||43/49 (88%)||45/45 (100%)||37/45 (82%)||30/37 (81%)|
Efficacy using azithromycin given over 3 days (10 mg/kg/day).
In a double-blind, controlled, randomized clinical study of acute otitis media in pediatric patients from 6 months to 12 years of age, azithromycin (10 mg/kg per day for 3 days) was compared to amoxicillin/clavulanate potassium (7:1) in divided doses q12h for 10 days. Each patient received active drug and placebo matched for the comparator.
For the 366 patients who were evaluated for clinical efficacy at the Day 12 visit, the clinical success rate (i.e., cure plus improvement) was 83% for azithromycin and 88% for the control agent. For the 362 patients who were evaluated at the Days 24 to 28 visit, the clinical success rate was 74% for azithromycin and 69% for the control agent.
Efficacy using azithromycin 30 mg/kg given as a single dose
A double-blind, controlled, randomized trial was performed at nine clinical centers. Pediatric patients from 6 months to 12 years of age were randomized 1:1 to treatment with either azithromycin (given at 30 mg/kg as a single dose on Day 1) or amoxicillin/clavulanate potassium (7:1), divided q12h for 10 days. Each child received active drug, and placebo matched for the comparator.
Clinical response (Cure, Improvement, Failure) was evaluated at End of Therapy (Days 12 to 16) and Test of Cure (Days 28 to 32). Safety was evaluated throughout the trial for all treated subjects. For the 321 subjects who were evaluated at End of Treatment, the clinical success rate (cure plus improvement) was 87% for azithromycin, and 88% for the comparator. For the 305 subjects who were evaluated at Test of Cure, the clinical success rate was 75% for both azithromycin and the comparator.
In a non-comparative clinical and microbiological trial, 248 patients from 6 months to 12 years of age with documented acute otitis media were dosed with a single oral dose of azithromycin (30 mg/kg on Day 1).
For the 240 patients who were evaluable for clinical modified Intent-to-Treat (MITT) analysis, the clinical success rate (i.e., cure plus improvement) at Day 10 was 89% and for the 242 patients evaluable at Days 24 to 28, the clinical success rate (cure) was 85%.
|Presumed Bacteriologic Eradication|
|Day 10||Days 24 to 28|
|S. pneumoniae||70/76 (92%)||67/76 (88%)|
|H. influenzae||30/42 (71%)||28/44 (64%)|
|M. catarrhalis||10/10 (100%)||10/10 (100%)|
|Overall||110/128 (86%)||105/130 (81%)|
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