Azithromycin, a widely-prescribed macrolide antibiotic drug sold as Zithromax and Zmax, has recently been found to have the potential to cause abnormal changes in the electrical activity of the heart that may lead to a potentially fatal irregular heart rhythm. Patients at risk for developing Zithromax heart problems include those with known risk factors such as QT interval prolongation, low potassium or magnesium levels, depressed heart rate, or use of certain heart medications. In response to a review of a number of studies that assessed the drug’s potential to cause changes in the electrical activity of the heart, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a Zithromax drug safety communication.
In May 2012, the FDA issued a press release regarding a study that compared the risks of cardiovascular death in individuals treated with the antibacterial medications azithromycin, amoxicillin, ciprofloxacin (Cipro), and levofloxacin (Levaquin), as well as a control group who took no such drugs. The research identified a significantly increased risk of cardiovascular death (as well as death from any cause) in patients taking the five day regimen of Zithromax compared to those taking the other drugs or no drugs at all. Zithromax is an FDA-approved medication prescribed to treat the following conditions:
- acute bacterial exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- acute bacterial sinusitis
- community-acquired pneumonia
- uncomplicated skin and skin structure infections
- genital ulcer disease
The FDA has advised healthcare providers to consider the risk of potential Zithromax side effects when considering treatment options for patients with a history of cardiovascular problems. The administration also noted that the risk of QT prolongation associated with Zithromax has also been found in other antibacterial drugs in the macrolide class, as well as in non-macrolides such as fluoroquinolones.
Side Effects of Zithromax
In addition to having the potential to cause the heart problems listed above, Zithromax has also been linked to the following serious side effects:
- liver failure
- pyloric stenosis