May 18, 2012- An antibiotic that is popular for treating ailments such as pneumonia, bronchitis, sexually transmitted diseases and ear infections may increase the risk of dying says a new study done in the U.S.
The antibiotic azithromycin has been available worldwide since sometime in the 1980s, but a recently published study in the U.S. says the antibiotic has serious heart risks. The study says the drug has a two and a half times higher risk of causing cardiovascular fatalities during the first five days the treatment is used, compared to a comparable antibiotic or no medication.
Researchers used patient records in Tennessee that dated from 1992 to 2006 to make their comparison. Vanderbilt University researchers compared close to 348,000 prescriptions of the antibiotic to millions of records of people who had not been treated with an antibiotic or had received amoxicillin, a medication similar to azithromycin and considered safe for the heart.
The analysis by the researchers found that per million there were 47 more deaths in those who took azithromycin compared to those who had taken amoxicillin. When at high risk heart patients were examined, the incident rate for death increased to 245 additional deaths per million in the group who used azithromycin compared to the ones who had taken amoxicillin.
While the fatalities were relatively low, the researchers said the results offer additional information about dangers that both patients and their doctors need to consider.