A US study said Wednesday that a popular antibiotic used for treating bronchitis, pneumonia, ear infections and sexually transmitted diseases may boost the risk of death.
Azithromycin has been on the worldwide market since the 1980s, but the study in the New England Journal of Medicine is the first to document serious heart risks — up to a 2.5-fold higher chance of cardiovascular fatalities — in the first five days of treatment compared to another or no antibiotic.
The comparison was based on an examination of patient records in the southern US state of Tennessee from 1992 to 2006. Researchers at Vanderbilt University compared about 348,000 prescriptions of azithromycin to millions of records from people who were not treated with any antibiotics or who received amoxicillin, a similar medication that is considered heart safe. The analysis found there were 47 more deaths per million in those taking azithromycin compared to those on amoxicillin. When researchers examined patients already at high risk for heart problems, the chance increased to 245 additional cardiovascular deaths per million in the azithromycin group compared to the amoxicillin takers.