Updated 11 February 2013


Azithromycin is a broad-spectrum antibiotic effective in the treatment of upper and lower respiratory tract infections.


Azithromycin is the active ingredient of Zithromax, Aspen-Azithromycin, Sandoz-Azithromycin, Ultreon and Zithrogen.

General information

Azithromycin is a broad-spectrum antibiotic effective in the treatment of upper and lower respiratory tract infections, uncomplicated skin and soft tissue infections, ear infections, and certain sexually transmitted bacterial infections, including chlamydia. It only has to be given once daily and as a short course, typically 3 days.

Azithromycin is a suitable alternative to penicillin in penicillin-allergic patients.

Azithromyin is only effective against bacterial infections and is useless in treating viral infections such as cold or flu. Inappropriate use may cause antibiotic resistance.

Azithromycin may cause the skin to be more sensitive towards sunlight. Additional protection is advised.

Avoid taking azithromycin concomitantly with antacids that contains aluminium or magnesium. Wait at least two hours before taking these.

How does azithromycin work?

Azithromycin functions by inhibiting bacterial protein synthesis; it thus prevents bacteria from produce specific proteins essential for their survival.

Fast facts

Drug schedule: Schedule 4

Available as: Tablets, suspension and injection

What does it do ? Kills or stuns the bacteria responsible for bacterial infections

Overdose risk: Medium

Dependency risk: Low

Available as a generic? Yes

Available on prescription only? Yes

User information

Dietary advice: Azithromycin can be taken with or without food. Ingest plenty of fluid whilst taking it. For optimal results, the antibiotic should be taken 1 hour before or 2 hours after a meal.

Stopping: Do not stop using azithromycin before you have completed the course prescribed by your doctor, even if you begin to feel better.

Prolonged use: Azithromycin is generally used for short periods of time only. In rare cases it is used for prolonged periods of time. This may be associated with increased side effects, and your prescriber should monitor you closely.

Special precautions

Alert your doctor before using this drug if:

  • You are allergic to other antibiotics, including erythromycin and
  • Clarithromycin;
  • You have a liver disease;
  • You are taking cholesterol- lowering medication; or
  • If you have a heart condition.

Pregnancy: Avoid. It is unknown how this medication may affect your baby. Consult your doctor before using this drug, or if you are planning to fall pregnant.

Breastfeeding: Avoid. It is unknown how this medication may affect your baby. Consult your doctor before use.

Porphyria: Avoid. It is unknown how this medication may affect your condition. Consult your doctor before use.

Infants and children: This medication is not intended for use in children under the age of 1 year.

Elderly: No special precautions need to be taken.

Driving and hazardous work : No special precautions.

Alcohol: Avoid concomitant use of alcohol.

Possible side effects

Side effect


Consult your doctor



Only if severe

In all cases

Stomach pain












Swelling of lips/ face and neck



Difficulty speaking



Difficulty breathing



Hives, itch, rash






Yellowish discoloration of skin or eyes




Drug interactions

Statin cholesterol lowering drugs

Possibility muscle pain and spasms

Antacids containing magnesium and aluminium

Decreased effect of azithromycin


Increased risk of warfarin toxicity


Increased risk of carbamazepine toxicity


Increased risk of cardiac toxicity


Increased risk of digoxin toxicity

Oral contraceptives

Decreased efficacy of the pill


Increased risk of theophylline toxicity

Disease interactions

Avoid taking azithromycin if you have a liver disease, a heart condition, or if you are allergic to other antibiotics.

Overdose action

Little information on azithromycin overdose is known. Consult your doctor should an overdose be suspected

Recommended dosage

Adults: 500mg once a day for 3 days.

Children: 10mg/kg for 3 days, or as directed by your prescriber.

This material is not intended to substitute medical advice, but is for informational purposes only. Please consult a physician for specific treatment and recommendations.


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