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While it was previously thought Zithromax may be an effective treatment for COVID-19, the findings of a new study suggest the antibiotic does not appear to be effective in treating the virus.
The commonly prescribed antibiotic failed to help patients admitted to the hospital for COVID-19 recover from the illness, according to researchers with the Randomized Evaluation of COVID-19 Therapy (RECOVERY). Patients who took Zithromax did not have a lower risk of death compared to patients who were given standard treatments, according to the findings published February 2, in The Lancet.
Since the coronavirus pandemic emerged early last year, much media attention has been placed on Zithromax, generically called azithromycin, as a proposed treatment for COVID-19. As a result, researchers in this new report focused on the safety and efficacy of Zithromax among patients admitted to the hospital with COVID-19.
The study was a randomized controlled trial involving more than 16,000 patients at 176 hospitals in the UK. Patients were randomly allocated to usual standard of care treatment or usual standard of care plus Zithromax 500 mg once per day, by mouth or intravenously, for 10 days or until they were discharged from the hospital.
According to the findings, patients who took Zithromax and who had the standard of care treatment had the same death rate within 28 days of being admitted to the hospital. Both groups had a 22% death rate within 28 days of hospital admission. There was also no significant difference seen in the duration of hospital stay. Those who had the standards of care were in the hospital for 10 days while those who took Zithromax were in the hospital for 11 days on average.
Zithromax also failed to reduce the number of patients who needed ventilation for COVID-19, which is a common problem among those with severe cases of the disease.
Health advocates originally focused on Zithromax because of its ability to regulate the immune system, which would translate to the body’s ability to fight the virus. However, the findings of the study suggest this is not the case. Zithromax does not help the body fight the coronavirus any more effectively than traditional standard of care, the researchers concluded.
Zithromax is one of several drugs investigated for its effects to fight the coronavirus. Hydroxychloroquine was touted by former President Trump as a “cure” for COVID-19, but research indicated taking hydroxychloroquine and Zithromax increased the risk of rapid and erratic heart rate. It led to other side effects and did not help treat COVID-19.
More so, widespread use of antibiotics like Zithromax have helped to increase the proliferation of antibiotics resistant bacteria. This can lead to the development of “superbugs” which cannot be treated by typical antibiotic treatments.
In addition, there are lingering concerns over the side effects of Zithromax use. A recent study linked Zithromax, Z-pack and other similar antibiotics to increased risk of heart problems and cardiovascular death.
“In patients admitted to hospital with COVID-19, azithromycin did not improve survival or other prespecified clinical outcomes,” the researchers wrote. “Azithromycin use in patients admitted to hospital with COVID-19 should be restricted to patients in whom there is a clear antimicrobial indication.”