Oral versus intravenous empirical antimicrobial therapy for fever in patients with granulocytopenia who are receiving cancer chemotherapy. International Antimicrobial Therapy Cooperative Group of the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer

N Engl J Med. 1999 Jul 29;341(5):312-8. doi: 10.1056/NEJM199907293410502.


Background: Intravenously administered antimicrobial agents have been the standard choice for the empirical management of fever in patients with cancer and granulocytopenia. If orally administered empirical therapy is as effective as intravenous therapy, it would offer advantages such as improved quality of life and lower cost.

Methods: In a prospective, open-label, multicenter trial, we randomly assigned febrile patients with cancer who had granulocytopenia that was expected to resolve within 10 days to receive empirical therapy with either oral ciprofloxacin (750 mg twice daily) plus amoxicillin-clavulanate (625 mg three times daily) or standard daily doses of intravenous ceftriaxone plus amikacin. All patients were hospitalized until their fever resolved. The primary objective of the study was to determine whether there was equivalence between the regimens, defined as an absolute difference in the rates of success of 10 percent or less.

Results: Equivalence was demonstrated at the second interim analysis, and the trial was terminated after the enrollment of 353 patients. In the analysis of the 312 patients who were treated according to the protocol and who could be evaluated, treatment was successful in 86 percent of the patients in the oral-therapy group (95 percent confidence interval, 80 to 91 percent) and 84 percent of those in the intravenous-therapy group (95 percent confidence interval, 78 to 90 percent; P=0.02). The results were similar in the intention-to-treat analysis (80 percent and 77 percent, respectively; P=0.03), as were the duration of fever, the time to a change in the regimen, the reasons for such a change, the duration of therapy, and survival. The types of adverse events differed slightly between the groups but were similar in frequency.

Conclusions: In low-risk patients with cancer who have fever and granulocytopenia, oral therapy with ciprofloxacin plus amoxicillin-clavulanate is as effective as intravenous therapy.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Agranulocytosis / drug therapy*
  • Agranulocytosis / etiology
  • Agranulocytosis / mortality
  • Amikacin / administration & dosage
  • Amoxicillin / administration & dosage
  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Bacteremia / drug therapy
  • Bacteremia / mortality
  • Ceftriaxone / administration & dosage
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Ciprofloxacin / administration & dosage
  • Clavulanic Acid / administration & dosage
  • Drug Therapy, Combination / administration & dosage*
  • Drug Therapy, Combination / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Fever / drug therapy*
  • Fever / etiology
  • Humans
  • Infusions, Intravenous
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / complications
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Prospective Studies
  • Survival Rate


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Clavulanic Acid
  • Ciprofloxacin
  • Ceftriaxone
  • Amoxicillin
  • Amikacin