Z-Pak (Zithromax) and Sudden Heart Death
Sudden heart death was found to be a possible new complication of a common antibiotic, azithromycin. The medication’s trade name is Zithromax or the Z-Pak.
Medicaid patients who received 348,000 prescriptions from 1992 to 2006 were the basis for the findings, published in the May 17 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
Zithromax and Heart Risk Study
When patients with infections who were treated with amoxicillin were compared to patients with infections who were treated with the Z-Pak, the Z-Pak group had two times the risk of dying from heart death. Patients who didn’t take any antibiotics were compared to patients taking the Z-Pak for five days. Those patients treated with the Z-Pak had three times the risk of heart death.
However, the overall risk is small according to the researcher heading up the study. Wayne A. Ray, Ph.D., professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University, was quoted as saying, “If you look carefully, you’ll see that all antibiotics have serious risks.”
An estimated 47 extra sudden heart deaths occurred when one million courses of azithromycin were prescribed. For people with the highest risk of heart disease, the number was 245 extra heart deaths for every million courses of the antibiotic given.
Ray said that if doctors could prescribe an equally effective medication for someone at risk for heart death, it would be better to choose the alternative.
Another specialist, an infectious disease physician at Emory University and director of the antibiotic management program there, said that while the study was done well, a lot more information is still needed.
The doctor, Jay Varkey, MD, said it would be important to conduct further studies to see if the underlying disease being treated might be responsible for the increased death rate, rather than the azithromycin.
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