Azithromycin for treatment of hospitalised COVID-19 patients: a randomised, multicentre, open-label clinical trial (DAWn-AZITHRO)

Iwein Gyselinck, Laurens Liesenborghs, Ann Belmans, Matthias M Engelen, Albrecht Betrains, Quentin Van Thillo, Pham Anh Hong Nguyen, Pieter Goeminne, Ann-Catherine Soenen, Nikolaas De Maeyer, Charles Pilette, Emmanuelle Papleux, Eef Vanderhelst, Aurélie Derweduwen, Patrick Alexander, Bernard Bouckaert, Jean-Benoît Martinot, Lynn Decoster, Kurt Vandeurzen, Rob SchildermansPeter Verhamme, Wim Janssens, Robin Vos

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Background and objectives: Azithromycin was rapidly adopted as a repurposed drug to treat coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) early in the pandemic. We aimed to evaluate its efficacy in patients hospitalised for COVID-19.

Methods: In a series of randomised, open-label, phase 2 proof-of-concept, multicentre clinical trials (Direct Antivirals Working against the novel coronavirus (DAWn)), several treatments were compared with standard of care. In 15 Belgian hospitals, patients hospitalised with moderate to severe COVID-19 were allocated 2:1 to receive standard of care plus azithromycin or standard of care alone. The primary outcome was time to live discharge or sustained clinical improvement, defined as a two-point improvement on the World Health Organization (WHO) ordinal scale sustained for at least 3 days.

Results: Patients were included between April 22 and December 17, 2020. When 15-day follow-up data were available for 160 patients (56% of preset cohort), an interim analysis was performed at request of the independent Data Safety and Monitoring Board. Subsequently, DAWn-AZITHRO was stopped for futility. In total, 121 patients were allocated to the treatment arm and 64 patients to the standard-of-care arm. We found no effect of azithromycin on the primary outcome with a hazard ratio of 1.044 (95% CI 0.772-1.413; p=0.7798). None of the predefined subgroups showed significant interaction as covariates in the Fine-Gray regression analysis. No benefit of azithromycin was found on any of the short- and longer-term secondary outcomes.

Conclusion: Time to clinical improvement is not influenced by azithromycin in patients hospitalised with moderate to severe COVID-19.

Original languageEnglish
Article number00610-2021
JournalERJ Open Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2022


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