Azithromycin vs cefuroxime plus erythromycin for empirical treatment of community-acquired pneumonia in hospitalized patients: a prospective, randomized, multicenter trial

Arch Intern Med. 2000 May 8;160(9):1294-300. doi: 10.1001/archinte.160.9.1294.


Objective: To compare the efficacy and safety of azithromycin dihydrate monotherapy with those of a combination of cefuroxime axetil plus erythromycin as empirical therapy for community-acquired pneumonia in hospitalized patients.

Methods: Patients were enrolled in a prospective, randomized, multicenter study. The standard therapy of cefuroxime plus erythromycin was consistent with the American Thoracic Society, Canadian Community-Acquired Pneumonia Consensus Group, and Infectious Disease Society of America consensus guidelines. The doses were intravenous azithromycin (500 mg once daily) followed by oral azithromycin (500 mg once daily), intravenous cefuroxime (750 mg every 8 hours), followed by oral cefuroxime axetil (500 mg twice daily), and erythromycin (500-1000 mg) intravenously or orally every 6 hours. Randomization was stratified by severity of illness and age. Patients who were immunosuppressed or residing in nursing homes were excluded.

Results: Data from 145 patients (67 received azithromycin and 78 received cefuroxime plus erythromycin) were evaluable. Streptococcus pneumoniae and Haemophilus influenzae were isolated in 19% (28/145) and 13% (19/145), respectively. The atypical pathogens accounted for 33% (48/145) of the etiologic diagnoses; Legionella pneumophila, Chlamydia pneumoniae, and Mycoplasma pneumoniae were identified in 14% (20/ 145), 10% (15/145), and 9% (13/145), respectively. Clinical cure was achieved in 91% (61/67) of the patients in the azithromycin group and 91% (71/78) in the cefuroxime plus erythromycin group. Adverse events (intravenous catheter site reactions, gastrointestinal tract disturbances) were significantly more common in patients who received cefuroxime plus erythromycin (49% [30/78]) than in patients who received azithromycin (12% [8/67]) (P<.001).

Conclusions: Treatment with azithromycin was as effective as cefuroxime plus erythromycin in the empirical management of community-acquired pneumonia in immunocompetent patients who were hospitalized. Azithromycin was well tolerated.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Azithromycin / therapeutic use*
  • Cefuroxime / therapeutic use*
  • Cephalosporins / therapeutic use*
  • Community-Acquired Infections / drug therapy
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Erythromycin / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Pneumonia / drug therapy*
  • Prospective Studies


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Cephalosporins
  • Erythromycin
  • Azithromycin
  • Cefuroxime