Importance: Clarithromycin is a commonly prescribed antibiotic associated with higher levels of direct oral anticoagulants (DOACs) in the blood, with the potential to increase the risk of hemorrhage.
Objective: To assess the 30-day risk of a hospital admission with hemorrhage after coprescription of clarithromycin compared with azithromycin among older adults taking a DOAC.
Design, setting, and participants: This population-based, retrospective cohort study was conducted among adults of advanced age (mean [SD] age, 77.6 [7.2] years) who were newly coprescribed clarithromycin (n = 6592) vs azithromycin (n = 18 351) while taking a DOAC (dabigatran, apixaban, or rivaroxaban) in Ontario, Canada, from June 23, 2009, to December 31, 2016. Cox proportional hazards regression was used to examine the association between hemorrhage and antibiotic use (clarithromycin vs azithromycin). Statistical analysis was performed from December 23, 2019, to March 25, 2020.
Main outcomes and measures: Hospital admission with major hemorrhage (upper or lower gastrointestinal tract or intracranial). Outcomes were assessed within 30 days of a coprescription.
Results: Among the 24 943 patients (12 493 women; mean [SD] age, 77.6 [7.2] years) in the study, rivaroxaban was the most commonly prescribed DOAC (9972 patients [40.0%]), followed by apixaban (7953 [31.9%]) and dabigatran (7018 [28.1%]). Coprescribing clarithromycin vs azithromycin with a DOAC was associated with a higher risk of a hospital admission with major hemorrhage (51 of 6592 patients [0.77%] taking clarithromycin vs 79 of 18 351 patients [0.43%] taking azithromycin; adjusted hazard ratio, 1.71 [95% CI, 1.20-2.45]; absolute risk difference, 0.34%). Results were consistent in multiple additional analyses.
Conclusions and relevance: This study suggests that, among adults of advanced age taking a DOAC, concurrent use of clarithromycin compared with azithromycin was associated with a small but statistically significantly greater 30-day risk of hospital admission with major hemorrhage.