March 13, 2014 — The Annals of Family Medicine has published a study linking the use of Zithromax (azithromycin) and Levaquin (levofloxacin) to an increased risk of cardiac arrhythmia and death compared to Amoxil (amoxicilin).
Zithromax was linked to a 77% increased risk of cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) and a 48% increased risk of death during the first 5 days of treatment, but not days 6-10.
Levaquin, another antibiotic, was linked to a 2.5-fold increased risk of death and a 2.4-fold increased risk of serious cardiac arrhythmia during the first 5 days of treatment. The risk was slightly lower in days 6-10, but remained statistically significant.
Researchers pointed out that there are other antibiotic options for patients that do not increase the risk of cardiac arrhythmia or death, especially for older patients or those who have risk-factors for cardiovascular events.
Dr. Scott Strayer of the University of South Carolina told heartwire:
“The findings are particularly important in light of the fact that nearly 50% of patients continue to receive antibiotics, especially broad-spectrum antibiotics, for illnesses such as ‘acute cough,’ which may not require antibiotics at all. … If we assumed that 50% of the 40 million outpatient prescriptions for azithromycin written in 2011 were unnecessary, then based on the data, it may be reasonable to estimate 4560 deaths were caused by [this] antibiotic.”
Conclusions were based on data from over 1.6 million people who received a prescription for Amoxil, Levaquin, or Zithromax in medical centers associated with the U.S. Veterans Affairs (VA).
In March 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published a Safety Communication about the link between Zithromax or Zmax and potentially fatal irregular heart rhythm. The FDA warning came after the New England Journal of Medicine published a study in May 2012 linking the use of Zithromax to an increased risk of sudden cardiovascular death.
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