SEATTLE – Adding a 3-day course of azithromycin to treatment regimens of children hospitalized with asthma did not shorten length of stay or bring other benefits in a randomized, blinded trial of more than 150 youngsters at The Children’s Hospital at Montefiore, New York.
In recent years, some pediatricians at Montefiore had begun giving short-course azithromycin to hospitalized children who were not recovering as quickly as they had hoped, spurred by outpatient reports of reduced exacerbations and other benefits with long-term azithromycin (e.g., Lancet. 2017 Aug 12;390(10095):659-68).
“We had no evidence for doing that at all” in the hospital, and it might be going on elsewhere, said senior investigator Alyssa Silver, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics at Montefiore and Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York. She and her colleagues, including primary investigator Lindsey Douglas, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, took a closer look.
The negative results mean that “we can stop doing this, giving kids unnecessary things. Word is starting to get out” at Montefiore. “People are not using it as much,” she said at Pediatric Hospital Medicine, sponsored by the Society of Hospital Medicine, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Academic Pediatric Association.
The team had expected azithromycin to shorten length of stay (LOS) by about half a day, due to its anti-inflammatory effects, but that’s not what was found when they randomized 80 children aged 4-12 years with persistent asthma to oral azithromycin 10 mg/kg per day for 3 days within 12 hours of admission, and 79 to placebo.
LOS was 1.86 days in the placebo arm, and 1.69 days in the azithromycin group (P = .23). One placebo child was transferred to the pediatric ICU, versus none in the azithromycin arm (P = .50). The study was stopped short of its 214 subject enrollment goal because of futility, but even so, it was well powered to detect a difference in LOS, the primary outcome, Dr. Silver said.
At 1 week phone follow-up, 7 placebo children and 11 in the azithromycin arm had persistent asthma symptoms (P = .42), and 1 placebo child and 2 azithromycin children had been readmitted (P greater than .99). There were no differences in days of school missed, or work days missed among parents and guardians.
At one month, 23 placebo and 18 azithromycin children had persistent asthma symptoms (P = .5); 7 placebo and 6 azithromycin children had returned to the ED (P = .75).
In short, “we really found no difference” with short-course azithromycin. “Clinicians should consider [these] data before prescribing azithromycin [to] children hospitalized with asthma,” Dr. Silver and her team concluded.
Subjects were an average of about 7 years old, and about two-thirds were boys. They were not on azithromycin or other antibiotics prior to admission. About half had been admitted in the previous year, and about a quarter had at least one previous pediatric ICU admission. Over two-thirds had been on daily asthma medications. There were about 2 days of symptoms prior to admission.
There was no external funding, and Dr. Silver had no disclosures.