NEJM Article Raises Concern for Antibiotic Sold as Z-Pack
Zithromax, also known as Azithromycin, is an antibiotic indicated for the treatment of several types of infections caused by bacteria. Physicians prescribe the medication for skin infections and venereal disease as well as upper and lower respiratory tract infections, including pneumonia, strep throat and tonsillitis.
Similar to erythromycin, the macrolide antibiotic interferes with bacterial reproduction. Zithromax comes as a capsule, tablet, or liquid to take by mouth. It is usually taken once a day for 2-5 days. The drug was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1991 and is made by Pfizer, Inc.
While known as an effective antibiotic, Zithromax has been tied to an increased risk of arrhythmia and sudden death. A 2012 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine indicated that patients who took Zithromax had a 1.5x increased risk of sudden death from cardiac-related problems than patients who either took similar antibiotics or did not take any antibiotics.
This is a concern for those with high-risk cardiovascular conditions such as prior bypass surgery, diabetes, previous heart attacks or stents, because the study showed that such patients had even higher odds of developing potentially fatal arrhythmia. Although the overall risk of death is low, physicians have suggested that other options be considered for people who have heart problems.