A new study published in
The New England Journal of Medicine has revealed that the popular antibiotic azithromycin (known as the Z-Pak) may increase the risk of sudden death in adult patients, particularly those who have or at risk for heart disease. The reason for the increased risk is that the antibiotic may cause an abnormal heart beat, a condition which could be fatal. Researchers are still unsure why or how the antibiotic disrupts normal heart rhythms.
Azithromycin is commonly used to treat bacterial infections like bronchitis and pneumonia, and even for less serious infections like ear aches and sore throats. Patients and doctors often prefer the "Z-Pak" because it can be taken for five days, as opposed to a traditional 10 day course of treatment associated with other types of antibiotics. Over 55 million azithromycin prescriptions were written in the U.S. in 2011.
Experts say that the study's data is not surprising, since two similar drugs, erythromycin and clarithromycin have already been shown to increase patients' risk of sudden death. Statistics proved that azithromycin stands out as a potential death hazard: for every million courses of treatment, 64.6 patients taking the Z-Pak died suddenly, as compared to 21.8 patients taking amoxicillin and 24 individuals receiving no treatment whatsoever.
Dr. John Bartlett, professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University responded to the study's publication by saying, "We use azithromycin for an awful lot of things and we abuse it terribly…for most of where we use it, probably the best option is not to give an antibiotic, quite frankly."
Over-use of antibiotics is a growing problem in the U.S. and, when viewed in the context of increased risk of patient death, it must be curbed quickly to prevent unnecessary damages. If you or a loved one has been harmed by a dangerous drug like azithromycin, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact a pharmaceutical injury attorney from Arnold & Itkin today for a free consultation.