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FDA warns of life-threatening heart risks with popular antibiotics Zithromax, Zmax, Z-Pak

Filed March 13th, 2013 Joshua Sophy

Certain conditions may increase the risk of suffering cardiac arrhythmia while taking the popular antibiotic drug azithromycin, federal health officials warned this week. The antibiotic is widely prescribed under the brand names Zithromax, Zmax, or the Z-Pak.

According to a MedPageToday.com report, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning for people who suffer from QT prolongation, bradycardia, and low levels of magnesium or potassium in their blood that they face a greater risk of life-threatening cardiac arrhythmia while taking Zithromax or Zmax instead of amoxicillin or no drug at all.

In its Safety Warning to the public, posted on the agency’s Web site fda.gov, the FDA says that patients already at risk of cardiovascular events face life-threatening side effects from taking Zithromax because it “can cause abnormal changes in the electrical activity of the heart that may lead to a potentially fatal irregular heart rhythm.”

The FDA commenced an investigation into the safety of azithromycin after a study appeared last year in the New England Journal of Medicine that found people taking Zithromax or Zmax faced a greater risk of cardiovascular death than people taking those other antibiotics. The agency will now order makers of these antibiotics to update safety labels on Zithromax and Zmax to indicate the specific risk of QT prolongation and the condition that can develop as QT prolongation worsens, torsades de pointes. The FDA warning also addresses physicians alerting them to the risk factors associated with Zithromax and Zmax and to consider those risks when prescribing an antibiotic, according to the MedPage Today report.

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