A worrying press release by the Food and Drug Administration revealed that a very popular antibiotic could cause unusual and even fatal heart arrhythmias in some patients. The FDA statement said that the drug, azithromycin, sold under names Zithromax or Zmax, and commonly sold in what’s known as a Z-Pak, is used to treat common bacterial infections. The popular drug has been found to cause changes in the electrical activity of a patients’ heart.
The FDA began its investigation not because of complaints, but after a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine by doctors at Vanderbilt University indicated trouble with the antibiotic. The study found that among thousands of Tennessee Medicaid patients there was a 2.5 times higher risk of death from heart disease in the first five days after using a Z-Pak when compared to those patients who used either another antibiotic or no antibiotics at all.
Researchers say those patients with preexisting heart problems may be especially vulnerable to the problems caused by azithromycin. The FDA said that those patients with especially low levels of potassium or magnesium are at heightened risk of complication as well as those who have slower than normal heart rates.
Though the recent trouble does not mean that everyone should immediately stop taking azithromycin, it does mean that patients should be cautious and take care to talk about possible problems with their doctors. The FDA said that patients should ask their doctors about the seriousness of their infection and whether a powerful antibiotic like azithromycin is even needed. As Virginia dangerous drug injury attorneys we know that there may be other antibiotics might work just as well.
One issue is that many doctors reflexively prescribe Z-Paks because the drugs only need to be taken for five days rather than the typical 10-day period for other antibiotics. Convenience alone should not be a reason for continuing use of a potentially dangerous drug if your doctor believes there could be complications.