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Canadian Journal of Infectious Diseases
Volume 12, Issue 4, Pages 218-231
CIDS Position Paper

Macrolides: A Canadian Infectious Disease Society Position Paper

S McKenna,1 GA Evans,2 and Canadian Infectious Disease Society Antimicrobial Agents Committee

1Department of Pharmacy Services, Kingston General Hospital, Kingston, Ontario, Canada
2Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada

Received 23 April 2001; Accepted 23 April 2001

Copyright © 2001 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Since the introduction of erythromycin in 1965, no new compounds from the macrolide antimicrobial class were licensed in Canada until the 1990s. Clarithromycin and azithromycin, since their introduction, have become important agents for treating a number of common and uncommon infectious diseases. They have become prime agents in the treatment of respiratory tract infections, and have revolutionized the management of both genital chlamydial infections, by the use of single-dose therapy with azithromycin, and nontuberculous mycobacterial infections, by the use of clarithromycin. The improvement of clarithromycin and azithromycin over the gastrointestinal intolerability of erythromycin has led to supplanting the use of the latter for many primary care physicians. Unfortunately, the use of these agents has also increased the likelihood for misuse and has raised concerns about a resultant increase in the rates of macrolide resistance in many important pathogens, such as Streptococcus pneumoniae. This paper reviews the pharmacology and evidence for the current indications for use of these newer agents, and provides recommendations for appropriate use.