Oral azole drugs as systemic antifungal therapy

N Engl J Med. 1994 Jan 27;330(4):263-72. doi: 10.1056/NEJM199401273300407.


The oral azole drugs--ketoconazole, fluconazole, and itraconazole--represent a major advance in systemic antifungal therapy. Among the three, fluconazole has the most attractive pharmacologic profile, including the capacity to produce high concentrations of active drug in cerebrospinal fluid and urine. Ketoconazole, the first oral azole to be introduced, is less well tolerated than either fluconazole or itraconazole and is associated with more clinically important toxic effects, including hepatitis and inhibition of steroid hormone synthesis. However, ketoconazole is less expensive than fluconazole and itraconazole--an especially important consideration for patients receiving long-term therapy. All three drugs are effective alternatives to amphotericin B and flucytosine as therapy for selected systemic mycoses. Ketoconazole and itraconazole are effective in patients with the chronic, indolent forms of the endemic mycoses, including blastomycosis, coccidioidomycosis, and histoplasmosis; itraconazole is also effective in patients with sporotrichosis. Fluconazole is useful in the common forms of fungal meningitis--namely, coccidioidal and cryptococcal meningitis. In addition, fluconazole is effective for selected patients with serious candida syndromes such as candidemia, and itraconazole is the most effective of the azoles for the treatment of aspergillosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antifungal Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Azoles / therapeutic use*
  • Candidiasis / drug therapy
  • Cryptococcosis / drug therapy
  • Drug Interactions
  • Drug Resistance, Microbial
  • Humans
  • Mycoses / drug therapy*


  • Antifungal Agents
  • Azoles