J Antimicrob Chemother. 2021 Nov 17:dkab404. doi: 10.1093/jac/dkab404. Online ahead of print.
BACKGROUND: Azithromycin has been widely used in the management of COVID-19. However, the evidence on its actual effects remains disperse and difficult to apply in clinical settings. This systematic review and meta-analysis summarizes the available evidence to date on the beneficial and adverse effects of azithromycin in patients with COVID-19.
METHODS: The PRISMA 2020 statement criteria were followed. Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and observational studies comparing clinical outcomes of patients treated with and without azithromycin, indexed until 5 July 2021, were searched in PubMed, Embase, The Web of Science, Scopus, The Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials and MedRXivs. We used random-effects models to estimate pooled effect size from aggregate data.
RESULTS: The initial search produced 4950 results. Finally, 16 studies, 5 RCTs and 11 with an observational design, with a total of 22 984 patients, were included. The meta-analysis showed no difference in mortality for those treated with or without azithromycin, in observational studies [OR: 0.90 (0.66-1.24)], RCTs [OR: 0.97 (0.87-1.08)] and also when both types of studies were pooled together [with an overall OR: 0.95 (0.79-1.13)]. Different individual studies also reported no significant difference for those treated with or without azithromycin in need for hospital admission or time to admission from ambulatory settings, clinical severity, need for intensive care, or adverse effects.
CONCLUSIONS: The results presented in this systematic review do not support the use of azithromycin in the management of COVID-19. Future research on treatment for patients with COVID-19 may need to focus on other drugs.