Potentially Fatal Heart Rhythms With Azithromycin

azithromycin | the maher law firm | frank eidson attorney at lawAn FDA drug safety communication about the risk of potentially fatal heart rhythms, when taking Azithromycin (Zithromax, Zmax, or Z Pack – prepackaged 5 day course of azithromycin), was issued today 3/12/2013

Azithromycin is a semi-synthetic macrolide antibiotic used to treat middle ear infections, tonsillitis, laryngitis, bronchitis, pneumonia, and sinusitis.  It is also effective in the treatment of sexually transmitted infections.
The heart has a natural pacemaker that regulates the pace or rate of the heart.  It is a collection of specializes electrical cells known as the Sinus or Sino-atrail (SA) node.  Azithromycin, can cause abnormal changes in the electrical activity of the heart, potentially leading to fatal irregular heart rhythm.

Patients at risk of developing this condition involve those with known risk factors such as:

  • Existing QT (time from electrocardiogram Q wave to the end of the T wave corresponding to electrical systole) interval prolongation
  • Low blood levels of potassium or magnesium
  • Slow heart rate
  • Taking other medications used to treat abnormal heart rhythms or arrhythmias

In a study, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) compared the risks of cardiovascular death in patients treated with antibacterial drugs azithromycin, amoxicillin, ciprofloxacin (Cipro), and levoflaxacin (Levaquin), or no antibacterial drug at all.   The study reported an increased risk of cardiovascular deaths in persons treated with a 5-day course of azithromycin (Zithromax, Zmax, or Z-Pack) compared to persons treated with amoxicillin, ciprofloxacin, or no drug.  Furthermore, persons treated with levofloxacin has similar risks of cardiovascular death as those associated with azithromycin.

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