Azithromycin is an antibiotic used to treat chlamydia and other infections. It belongs to the same group of antibiotics as erythromycin, a group known as macrolides. The most widely known brand names for azithromycin are Zithromax and Clamelle.
Azithromycin kills bacteria causing infections by preventing the bacteria making the proteins they need to survive. It is effective only against bacterial infections such as chlamydia and some respiratory and other infections and is not active against viruses.
Prices and how to order
Azithromycin is supplied on the Dr Fox website as a single dose treatment for chlamydia and as a single dose treatment for traveller’s diarrhoea.
It should be taken on an empty stomach, 1 hour before food or 2 hours after food. If a person vomits within 30 minutes of taking azithromycin the dose can be repeated.
Nausea, vomiting, abdominal discomfort and diarrhoea are amongst the commonest side effects, occurring in between 1 in 100 to 1 in 10 people. Other side effects are uncommon and are unlikely to be serious.
Safety of Azithromycin
Azithromycin can be taken safely with most other prescribed medication, particularly where only a single dose of azithromycin is being taken. A full list of side effects and interactions with other drugs can be found in the summary of product characteristics.
Most people can take azithromycin safely. However, it should be avoided in people who have severe kidney and liver disease and is not recommended in women who are pregnant or breast feeding because the studies need to prove the safety of azithromycin in these circumstances have not been carried out. There is no evidence that azithromycin causes birth defects. Nevertheless it in not recommended in pregnancy.
Resistance to Azithromycin
Some bacteria are resistant to azithromycin and macrolides in general. Low levels of resistance of chlamydia to azithromycin have been reported in the last decade. However, chlamydia resistance was not reported to increase after countrywide use of it for the treatment of eye infections in Ethiopia. There is significant resistance of gonorrhoea to azithromycin.
Alternative treatment for chlamydia
Azithromycin is the first line recommended treatment for chlamydia in the UK. The alternative antibiotic most often used to treat chlamydia is doxycycline 100mg taken twice daily for 7 days. Azithromycin as a single dose is a more appealing treatment for most patients and doctors; compliance with a single dose treatment being likely to be better.
Azithromycin for chlamydia
There is an NHS campaign to increase awareness, testing and treatment of chlamydia. People in the UK under the age of 25 can get free chlamydia testing and treatment. Genitourinary clinics and GPs surgeries and some private and charitable clinics carry out testing and provide treatment. As yet the NHS chlamydia campaigns do not include an option to obtain antibiotic treatment online despite this treatment having been available online privately for close to a decade.
Chlamydia remains infectious for up to a week after successful antibiotic treatment. It takes up to 6 weeks for chlamydia tests carried out on urine samples to go negative after treatment.
People taking azithromycin to treat chlamydia should refrain from sexual contact for a week after treatment, until they are no longer infectious.