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What is azithromycin?

Azithromycin is an antibiotic that is classed as a "macrolide antibiotic". It has a similar, but not identical, range of action to penicillin, and is sometimes used as an alternative for patients who are allergic to penicillin.

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How does azithromycin work?

Azithromycin is usually prescribed for some skin infections, respiratory infections, and sexually transmitted infections. It can also be used to treat travellers' diarrhoea, in adults for whom it is suitable. For sexually transmitted infections, such as Chlamydia or Gonorrhoea, it should be used only after you have been positively tested for the infection.

How to take azithromycin?

For travellers' diarrhoea, the usual dose of azithromycin is 500mg once a day for three days. The oral tablets should be taken at least one hour before food, or two hours after food; however the oral suspension can be taken with food if necessary.

For the treatment of Chlamydia, or Gonorrhoea (in combination with cefixime), the usual dose is 2000mg (2 gram) taken as a single dose. For example, this might be taken as four 500mg capsules.

Is azithromycin suitable for me?

There are some situations where azithromycin should be used with caution or would not be recommended, for example, in patients who have liver or kidney disease, a problem with the heart rhythm, an electrolyte disturbance, myasthenia gravis, or problems with galactose intolerance.

Tell the doctor if you are taking any other medicines, either from your doctor or purchased from a pharmacy. Azithromycin may not be suitable or may need to be used with caution if you are taking some medicines such as ergot derivatives (for migraines), digoxin, ciclosporin, or anticoagulants (such as warfarin).

What are the side effects of azithromycin?

Like all medicines, azithromycin can cause side effects, although not everybody will experience them. It is considered to be well tolerated with a low incidence of side effects in general. Side effects that are considered to be common include gastrointestinal disturbances (diarrhoea, abdominal pain, indigestion, nausea, flatulence, taste disturbance), anorexia, fatigue, dizziness, headaches, skin tingling or rashes, visual impairment, deafness, and joint pain.

For a full list of potential side effects and other important information, please read the patient leaflet provided in the pack before starting any course of treatment. The leaflet can also be viewed online here.