Commonly prescribed antibiotic ineffective for treating bronchitis

May 09, 2002

A US study in this week's issue of THE LANCET concludes that the antibiotic azithromycin is ineffective for treating bronchitis, even though it is often prescribed by physicians for this condition.

Azithromycin is an expensive, broad-spectrum antibiotic; there is limited evidence about its effectiveness in treating bronchitis. Arthur Evans and colleagues from Cook County Hospital, Chicago, USA, investigated whether people with bronchitis given azithromycin returned to work earlier, and had greater improvements in health-related quality-of-life scores, compared with individuals given low-dose vitamin C.

The investigators randomly allocated 230 Adults (who had been diagnosed with acute bronchitis) to receive either azithromycin or vitamin C (the placebo group) for five days. All individuals were also given cough syrup (liquid dextromethorphan) and an albuterol inhaler.

There was no difference in quality-of-life scores between the two groups; around 90% of patients in both groups had returned to their usual activities after one week. 81% of patients reported benefit from the albuterol inhaler.

Arthur Evans comments: "These results show that azithromycin is no more effective than low-dose vitamin C for treatment of acute bronchitis. Given the lack of evidence that low-dose vitamin C is beneficial, we conclude that azithromycin is ineffective and should not be prescribed for patients with acute bronchitis."
-end-
Contact: Dr Arthur T Evans, Collaborative Research Unit, Cook County Hospital, Room 1600, Administration Building, 1900 W Polk Street, Chicago, IL 60612, USA; T) +1 312 633 6903; F) +1 312 633 6783; E) aevans@cchil.org

Lancet

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