Importance: Although clinical practice guidelines recommend combination therapy with macrolides, including azithromycin, as first-line therapy for patients hospitalized with pneumonia, recent research suggests that azithromycin may be associated with increased cardiovascular events.
Objective: To examine the association of azithromycin use with all-cause mortality and cardiovascular events for patients hospitalized with pneumonia.
Design: Retrospective cohort study comparing older patients hospitalized with pneumonia from fiscal years 2002 through 2012 prescribed azithromycin therapy and patients receiving other guideline-concordant antibiotic therapy.
Setting: This study was conducted using national Department of Veterans Affairs administrative data of patients hospitalized at any Veterans Administration acute care hospital.
Participants: Patients were included if they were aged 65 years or older, were hospitalized with pneumonia, and received antibiotic therapy concordant with national clinical practice guidelines.
Main outcomes and measures: Outcomes included 30- and 90-day all-cause mortality and 90-day cardiac arrhythmias, heart failure, myocardial infarction, and any cardiac event. Propensity score matching was used to control for the possible effects of known confounders with conditional logistic regression.
Results: Of 73,690 patients from 118 hospitals identified, propensity-matched groups were composed of 31,863 patients exposed to azithromycin and 31,863 matched patients who were not exposed. There were no significant differences in potential confounders between groups after matching. Ninety-day mortality was significantly lower in those who received azithromycin (exposed, 17.4%, vs unexposed, 22.3%; odds ratio [OR], 0.73; 95% CI, 0.70-0.76). However, we found significantly increased odds of myocardial infarction (5.1% vs 4.4%; OR, 1.17; 95% CI, 1.08-1.25) but not any cardiac event (43.0% vs 42.7%; OR, 1.01; 95% CI, 0.98-1.05), cardiac arrhythmias (25.8% vs 26.0%; OR, 0.99; 95% CI, 0.95-1.02), or heart failure (26.3% vs 26.2%; OR, 1.01; 95% CI, 0.97-1.04).
Conclusions and relevance: Among older patients hospitalized with pneumonia, treatment that included azithromycin compared with other antibiotics was associated with a lower risk of 90-day mortality and a smaller increased risk of myocardial infarction. These findings are consistent with a net benefit associated with azithromycin use.