Azithromycin (Zithromax) in UK

Are you suffering from pneumonia, an infection of your throat or maybe a wound infection? Then it might be that your doctor prescribed you azithromycin, also known as Azithromycin (brand name Zithromax).

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What is Azithromycin (Zithromax)?

Azithromycin, also known as Zithromax, is a semi-synthetic macrolide antibiotic derived from erythromycin, which is active against a wide range of gram-positive and gram-negative microorganisms. Azithromycin works by inhibiting bacterial protein synthesis, thus preventing the growth and spread of bacteria (2). It is used to treat various bacterial infections, including upper and lower respiratory infections such as tonsillitis, otitis, sinusitis, and pneumonia, urogenital infections like urethritis, prostatitis, cervicitis, and adnexitis caused by chlamydia, gonorrhea, and primary syphilis, as well as intestinal infections and stomach and duodenal ulcers.

How to use Azithromycin (Zithromax)?

Azithromycin is available in both liquid and tablet forms. The typical azithromycin dose varies depending on the patient’s age, weight, and indication for use, with the severity of symptoms and potential side effects also taken into consideration. For most infections in adults and children weighing over 45 kilograms, the azithromycin 500mg dose is usually prescribed once a day for three to five days. An exception to this dosing guideline is the treatment of chlamydia, where a single dose of 1000mg may be prescribed.

When taking azithromycin, it is essential to follow the prescribed dosage and frequency provided by your healthcare professional. Azithromycin tablets should be swallowed whole with half a glass of water, while the liquid suspension should be prepared by adding the appropriate amount to a glass of water, stirring, and drinking the entire mixture. It is recommended to take azithromycin at a consistent time each day, either before, during, or after a meal, to minimize the risk of forgetting a dose. If azithromycin causes nausea or other side effects, taking it with or immediately after a meal may help to alleviate these symptoms.

As with any prescription medication, it is crucial to read the patient information leaflet provided with your azithromycin prescription, as it contains essential information about potential side effects, drug interactions, and other precautions. If you have any concerns or questions about azithromycin or its use, consult your healthcare professional for guidance (10).

Side effects

Now, azithromycin can be a very effective drug, but unfortunately it can also cause some side effects. If you’re looking for a complete list, always ask your doctor, your pharmacist or check your leaflet.
Very commonly it might cause the following symptopms:
nausea, abdominal pain, flatulence and diarrhea.

And commonly it can cause:
vomiting, skin rash, itching, taste disturbances, visual impairment, and deafness.
Uncommonly it can cause palpitations, inflammation of your stomach, liver or vagina, a hypersensitivity reaction, skin rash, edema and nervousness, and rarely, it might cause irritability, vertigo, liver dysfunction and several serious side effects.

Safety of use

Here it is important to mention that there are no limitations when using azithromycin. You can combine it with any type of food and you can drive safely when using it. However, it can cause interactions with other drugs you might be taking. Always discuss this with your personal doctor. Furthermore, when pregnant or when breastfeeding, azithromycin can usually be used safely. However, always discuss this with your personal doctor.

Azithromycin UK FAQ

How long does azithromycin stay in your system?

As a patient, it is important to be aware of the elimination period of medication. Azithromycin has an elimination half-life of 68 hours and has been estimated to remain in the system for approximately 15.5 days after the final dose. This prolonged terminal half-life is attributed to the extensive uptake and subsequent release of the drug from tissues. To effectively clear a medication from the system, it typically takes 5.5 times the elimination half-life. In the case of Azithromycin, this equates to approximately 374 hours, or 15.5 days. It is important to note that several factors can influence the duration that Azithromycin remains in the system. These may include the quantity and frequency of doses, metabolic rate, age and overall health, as well as body mass. A slower metabolism, older age, poor health, and larger body mass may increase the length of time that Azithromycin remains in the system.

How long does azithromycin take to cure chlamydia?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Guidelines for Sexually Transmitted Diseases, released in 2015 and still considered current, a single dose of Azithromycin 1 gram orally is effective in curing genital Chlamydia. This dose can be taken as either four 250mg tablets or two 500mg tablets of Azithromycin in a single administration. The recommended dose is the same for adults, children over the age of eight years or weighing at least 45kg, individuals with HIV, and those without HIV. The CDC recommends this dose for the treatment of urogenital, anogenital, and oropharyngeal Chlamydia. However, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) guidelines suggest using Doxycycline over Azithromycin for the treatment of anorectal chlamydial infection. After taking the recommended dose of Azithromycin, sexually active individuals are advised to abstain from sexual activity for 7 days to prevent the spread of the infection to partners. All sexual partners of the individual with Chlamydia should also be treated with a single dose of Azithromycin 1 gram orally. Depending on local laws, this treatment may be administered as expedited therapy, based on a clinical evaluation but not necessarily waiting for laboratory confirmation, if a doctor is concerned that the partner may not be properly evaluated or treated. A follow-up evaluation should be performed 3 to 4 weeks after treatment to test for treatment failure or reinfection. It is important to note that Lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV), a chlamydial disease caused by three unique strains of Chlamydia trachomatis, is characterized by a small, often asymptomatic skin lesion, followed by swollen lymph glands in the groin or pelvis. If LGV is acquired through anal sex, it may manifest as severe proctitis. For the treatment of LGV, the WHO STI guidelines recommend Doxycycline 100 mg orally twice daily for 21 days, over Azithromycin 1 gram orally, weekly for 3 weeks.

What is the difference between azithromycin and doxycycline?

As a pharmacist, I would like to inform you that according to the STD guidelines, azithromycin is still favored over doxycycline for the treatment of chlamydia. The reasons for this are: A meta-analysis of 12 trials has revealed that the cure rates for azithromycin and doxycycline are similar, at 97% and 98-100% respectively. Azithromycin is a single-dose treatment, whereas doxycycline needs to be taken for seven days, either once or twice a day. The administration of a single dose of azithromycin is easily supervised, whereas supervising seven days of once or twice daily doxycycline treatment is more challenging. Studies have shown that people are more likely to comply with a single-dose treatment of azithromycin compared to completing a seven-day course of doxycycline. Recent reports have indicated that doxycycline may be more effective than azithromycin, particularly when medication adherence can be guaranteed. However, there is also some concern that azithromycin may not be as effective for anogenital (rectal and genital) chlamydial infections.

What are the best antibiotics for pneumonia?

As a pharmacist, I would like to inform you that various antibiotics can be used to treat community-acquired pneumonia. Your doctor will choose the most appropriate medication based on the nature of your infection and other medical conditions, local antibiotic resistance patterns, cost, and your personal characteristics such as age, weight, allergies, and prior antibiotic use. Common first-line antibiotics that may be prescribed include macrolide antibiotics such as Azithromycin (Zithromax) or Clarithromycin (Biaxin XL), or the tetracycline Doxycycline. Other potential options include fluoroquinolones like Levofloxacin (Levaquin), or a combination therapy of beta-lactam antibiotics such as Amoxicillin or Amoxicillin/Clavulanate (Augmentin) with a macrolide.

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