Background  Rosacea is a common inflammatory disorder of the skin. Systemic antibiotics currently used in the treatment of rosacea are sometimes associated with uncomfortable side effects. Therefore, a need for an effective agent with few side effects and good patient compliance exists. Azithromycin, a macrolide antibiotic with prolonged mode of action, has recently been found to be an effective alternative in the treatment of inflammatory acne.

Methods  For evaluation of the efficacy of azithromycin in the treatment of rosacea, we planned a randomized, open, clinical trial study to compare the efficacy of azithromycin with doxycycline in the treatment of this disease. Sixty-seven patients were randomized to receive either azithromycin 500 mg thrice weekly (on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday) in the first, 250 mg thrice weekly (on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday) in the second, and 250 mg twice weekly (on Tuesday, and Saturday) in the third month. The other group was given doxycycline 100 mg/day for the three months. Clinical assessment was made at baseline, at the end of first, second, third, and 2 months after treatment. Side affects were recorded. The limitation of this study is that there was no blindness.

Results  Statistically significant improvement was obtained with both drugs. Neither drug was shown to be more effective than the other. In the azithromycin group four patients had diarrhea, while epigastric burning was seen in two patients using doxycycline.

Conclusion  This study indicates that azithromycin is at least as effective as doxycycline in the treatment of rosacea.