Antibiotic therapy is of clinical benefit in certain patients with acute exacerbations of chronic bronchitis (AECB). In this randomised, investigator-blinded, multicentre trial, azithromycin (500mg once a day (qd) for 3 days) was compared with moxifloxacin (400mg qd for 5 days) for the treatment of outpatients with AECB (forced expiratory volume in 1s (FEV(1)) >35%). Of 342 patients randomised to either treatment, 169 received azithromycin and 173 received moxifloxacin. The mean age in the azithromycin and moxifloxacin groups was 56.4 years and 55.5 years, respectively. In the intent-to-treat analysis, clinical success rates for azithromycin and moxifloxacin were comparable at Days 10-12 (90% versus 90%, respectively) and Days 22-26 (81% versus 82%, respectively). Among patients who were culture-positive at baseline for Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, Moraxella catarrhalis or Haemophilus parainfluenzae, clinical efficacy for azithromycin versus moxifloxacin at Days 10-12 was 93% versus 84%, respectively, and at Days 22-26 it was 89% versus 73%, respectively. The incidence of at least one treatment-related adverse event (AE) in the azithromycin and moxifloxacin groups was 18.3% and 19.1%, respectively. The most common AEs were diarrhoea, nausea, abdominal pain and vaginitis. Most treatment-related AEs were of mild or moderate severity, with no serious treatment-related AEs. One subject in the moxifloxacin group discontinued treatment owing to a treatment-related AE (precordial pain and dry throat). Compliance with both regimens was >90%. Three-day azithromycin and 5-day moxifloxacin demonstrate comparable efficacy and safety for the treatment of AECB in outpatients.