The disease-modifying effects of twice-weekly oral azithromycin in patients with bronchiectasis

Treat Respir Med. 2005;4(2):117-22. doi: 10.2165/00151829-200504020-00005.


Introduction: Bronchiectasis is a chronic pulmonary process characterized by recurrent respiratory infections leading to destruction of airways secondary to inflammation. We investigated whether the addition of 6-months' twice-weekly azithromycin to the existing treatment regimen in patients with pulmonary bronchiectasis decreased the number of exacerbations and improved pulmonary function compared with a similar period of time without concurrent azithromycin.

Methods: Thirty patients with high-resolution computed tomography scan-confirmed bronchiectasis were to be recruited. In random order, patients received usual medications for 6 months, and usual medications plus oral azithromycin 500mg twice weekly for 6 months. Patients receiving azithromycin first had a 1-month washout period prior to entering the second phase. Patients recorded weekly peak flow (PF) measurements. Pulmonary function tests (PFTs), 24-hour sputum volume, and needs for intervention with medication or ancillary support were collected at baseline and every 3 months. Exacerbation incidence and sputum volume measurements were compared from baseline to the end of each study phase.

Results: Twelve patients were enrolled; 11 were included in the analysis. Owing to randomization, most patients received the azithromycin first, which was fairly well tolerated. PFTs did not change significantly during either study phase and PFs appeared to remain stable during azithromycin therapy and throughout the subsequent control phase. Azithromycin significantly decreased the incidence of exacerbations compared with usual medications (5 vs 16; p = 0.019). Mean 24-hour sputum volume significantly decreased (15% [p = 0.005]) during the active treatment phase, and remained decreased during the control phase (p = 0.028). Subjectively, patients reported increased energy and quality of life while receiving treatment with azithromycin.

Conclusions: The addition of twice-weekly azithromycin significantly decreased the incidence of exacerbation and 24-hour sputum volume and may have stabilized the PFTs and PFs in this 11-patient pilot study. The results of this study justify further investigation of adding azithromycin to the treatment regimens of patients with bronchiectasis for its disease-modifying effects.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Azithromycin / administration & dosage*
  • Bronchiectasis / drug therapy*
  • Bronchiectasis / physiopathology
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Humans
  • Pilot Projects
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Sputum


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Azithromycin