Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Ann Pharmacother. 2010 Mar;44(3):471-8. doi: 10.1345/aph.1M344. Epub 2010 Feb 11.

Increased clinical failures when treating acute otitis media with macrolides: a meta-analysis.

Author information

  • 1Connecticut Children's Medical Center, Hartford, CT 06106, USA.



Macrolide antibiotics are often used to treat children with acute otitis media (AOM); however, the 2004 American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and American Academy of Family Physicians guidelines recommend against their use in patients without history of a type I allergic reaction to penicillins.


To evaluate via meta-analysis the comparative efficacy of amoxicillin or amoxicillin/clavulanate to that of macrolide antibiotics in the treatment of children with AOM.


A systematic literature search of MEDLINE, EMBASE, and International Pharmaceutical Abstracts was conducted from the earliest available date through September 2008. We used the following MeSH and key words: amoxicillin, amoxicillin/clavulanate, Augmentin, azithromycin, ceftriaxone, clarithromycin, macrolides, AND media, otitis media, and effusion. Included studies were randomized, blinded, and controlled trials evaluating guideline-recommended antibiotics (amoxicillin or amoxicillin/clavulanate) compared to macrolide antibiotics (azithromycin or clarithromycin) in AOM in children. The primary outcome assessed was clinical failure measured between days 10 and 16 after starting antibiotic therapy. Results are reported as relative risks (RRs) with 95% confidence intervals and were calculated using a random-effects model.


A total of 10 trials (N = 2766) evaluating children 6 months-15 years old were included in the meta-analysis. Upon meta-analysis, the use of macrolide antibiotics was associated with an increased risk of clinical failure (RR 1.31 [95% CI 1.07 to 1.60]; p = 0.008) corresponding to a number needed to harm of 32. Upon safety analysis, rates of any adverse reaction (RR 0.74 [95% CI 0.60 to 0.90]; p = 0.003) and diarrhea (RR 0.41 [95% CI 0.32 to 0.52]; p < 0.0001) were significantly lower in the macrolide group.


The meta-analysis suggests that patients treated with macrolides for AOM may be more likely to have clinical failures. As such, it supports the current AAP AOM recommendation that macrolides be reserved for patients who can not receive amoxicillin or amoxicillin/clavulanate.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for HighWire Icon for PubMed Health
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk