Risk of adverse events among older adults following co-prescription of clarithromycin and statins not metabolized by cytochrome P450 3A4 Journal Articles uri icon

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  • BACKGROUND: The cytochrome P450 3A4 (CYP3A4) inhibitor clarithromycin may also inhibit liver-specific organic anion-transporting polypeptides (OATP1B1 and OATP1B3). We studied whether concurrent use of clarithromycin and a statin not metabolized by CYP3A4 was associated with an increased frequency of serious adverse events. METHODS: Using large health care databases, we studied a population-based cohort of older adults (mean age 74 years) who were taking a statin not metabolized by CYP3A4 (rosuvastatin [76% of prescriptions], pravastatin [21%] or fluvastatin [3%]) between 2002 and 2013 and were newly prescribed clarithromycin (n=51,523) or azithromycin (n=52,518), the latter an antibiotic that inhibits neither CYP3A4 nor OATP1B1 and OATP1B3. Outcomes were hospital admission with a diagnostic code for rhabdomyolysis, acute kidney injury or hyperkalemia, and all-cause mortality. All outcomes were assessed within 30 days after co-prescription. RESULTS: Compared with the control group, patients co-prescribed clarithromycin and a statin not metabolized by CYP3A4 were at increased risk of hospital admission with acute kidney injury (adjusted relative risk [RR] 1.65, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.31 to 2.09), admission with hyperkalemia (adjusted RR 2.17, 95% CI 1.22 to 3.86) and all-cause mortality (adjusted RR 1.43, 95% CI 1.15 to 1.76). The adjusted RR for admission with rhabdomyolysis was 2.27 (95% CI 0.86 to 5.96). The absolute increase in risk for each outcome was small and likely below 1%, even after we considered the insensitivity of some hospital database codes. INTERPRETATION: Among older adults taking a statin not metabolized by CYP3A4, co-prescription of clarithromycin versus azithromycin was associated with a modest but statistically significant increase in the 30-day absolute risk of adverse outcomes.


  • Li, Daniel Q
  • Kim, Richard
  • McArthur, Eric
  • Fleet, Jamie L
  • Bailey, David G
  • Juurlink, David
  • Shariff, Salimah Z
  • Gomes, Tara
  • Mamdani, Muhammad
  • Gandhi, Sonja
  • Dixon, Stephanie
  • Garg, Amit

publication date

  • February 17, 2015

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