Azithromycin is a widely used antibiotic manufactured by Pfizer Inc. The drug has come under scrutiny for its potentially deadly side effects. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned that azithromycin, which is sold as Zithromax or Zmax, can cause irregular heart rhythms, which can lead to a heart attack.
The FDA cautions physicians about prescribing azithromycin to patients at risk for heart disease or arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat) but has made no move to take Zithromax / Zmax off of the market.
The drug injury lawyers of The Driscoll Firm, LLC, are investigating injury cases among patients prescribed azithromycin for bacterial infections, such as ear infections, sinusitis or bronchitis. Below are frequently asked questions and answers (FAQs) about this antibiotic.
For additional information, please complete our contact form or call our toll-free number and ask to speak to one of our lawyers. Our caring and dedicated professionals understand what you are going through. They will give you straight answers – not a legal runaround – at no charge and with no further obligation on your part.
Questions and Answers about Azithromycin (Zithromax, Zmax)
(Click on the question to jump to the answer, or scroll down.)
Azithromycin is a widely used antibiotic sold as Zithromax or Zmax. Azithromycin belongs to the class of drugs known as “macrolide antibiotics,” which work by killing bacteria or preventing their growth. It is administered as an injection, an oral liquid or a tablet. It is popular in its “Z-Pak” form, which is a five-dose treatment rather than the standard 10 doses that most antibiotics require.
Pfizer Inc., one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, manufactures azithromycin as Zithromax or Zmax. Pfizer is headquartered in New York, NY.
Studies show that azithromycin can cause abnormal changes in the electrical activity of the heart that may lead to a potentially fatal irregular heart rhythm, or arrhythmia, which can lead to a heart attack.
The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) said in May 2012 that their research indicated “a small absolute increase in cardiovascular deaths” in persons treated with a five-day course of azithromycin compared to patients treated with other antibiotics. The FDA issued a “drug safety communication” about azithromycin in March 2013 that cited the NEJM study as well as a study by Pfizer.
The major concern about azithromycin is its potential to cause changes in the electrical activity of the heart that may lead to arrhythmias, or irregular heart rhythms. This condition can cause sudden cardiovascular death, or a heart attack. Azithromycin is also known to cause QT interval prolongation, or a longer-than-normal time between two specific measurable points in a heartbeat. This, too, can lead to fatal heart problems.
No. The FDA’s warning about azithromycin states that health care professionals should consider the risk of fatal heart rhythms with azithromycin when determining treatment options for patients who are already at risk for cardiovascular events. It advises patients who have been prescribed Zithromax or Zmax that they should not stop taking azithromycin without talking to their health care professional.
It’s always important to understand the potentially serious side effects of drugs you have been prescribed, and the FDA’s warning about azithromycin increases your knowledge about this medication. It is also wise to discuss any questions or concerns about azithromycin or other antibacterial drugs with your health care professional.
If you are taking Zithromax or Zmax, you should seek medical care immediately if you experience an irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, dizziness or fainting.
The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) study of azithromycin cites deaths among users of the drug, but to maintain technical accuracy considers additional factors, such as the prior existence of heart disease among deceased patients in the study.
Researchers concluded that azithromycin was associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular death and with death from any cause, with an estimated 47 additional cardiovascular deaths per 1 million courses of azithromycin. In the study’s conclusion, researchers wrote, “During 5 days of azithromycin therapy, there was a small absolute increase in cardiovascular deaths, which was most pronounced among patients with a high baseline risk of cardiovascular disease.”
If you or a family member of yours has suffered a heart-related injury after taking azithromycin, you should contact a personal injury attorney who has successfully pursued cases on behalf of people injured by dangerous pharmaceuticals and faulty medical devices. Next, you should contact your or your family member’s physician(s) and request copies of all medical records pertaining to the azithromycin prescription in question, the use of the drug and reactions to it.
Initial consultations with the azithromycin heart risk lawyers at The Driscoll Firm, LLC, are free and confidential. If The Driscoll Firm, LLC, thinks it can help you with your claim, and you choose to pursue a lawsuit, all legal work on your behalf will be performed on a contingency-fee basis. This means you will not pay any legal fees until we obtain a settlement or a court order that provides compensation for you. Even then, our fee will be based on a nominal percentage of the money obtained in your case.
The FDA’s March 2013 notice and an abstract of the NEJM study about azithromycin are available at the following links:
- FDA Drug Safety Communication: Azithromycin (Zithromax or Zmax) and the risk of potentially fatal heart rhythms, U.S. Food and Drug Administration
- Azithromycin and the Risk of Cardiovascular Death, The New England Journal of Medicine
You should also contact The Driscoll Firm, LLC, at our toll-free number or through our online form to speak with an azithromycin heart risk attorney.