Even when medications are generally considered safe, they may not be safe for every person. That's why prescription drug ads often warn patients to avoid taking a given drug if they have certain medical conditions.
It is important for drug companies to disclose risks and make patients aware of these potentially dangerous drug reactions. If they don't, the consequences could be fatal.
A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine warns that taking a popular antibiotic called azithromycin could significantly increase the risk of sudden death in patients who have heart disease or a high heart-disease risk.
This antibiotic, commonly referred to as "Z-Pak," is popular because it only needs to be taken for five days, as opposed to the 10 days or more which most antibiotics require.
Furthermore, azithromycin was originally thought to be safer than two related antibiotics called clarithromycin and erythromycin.. Apparently, this is not the case, and azythromycin is reportedly not safer for patients with heart disease or a risk thereof.
The medical community's response to the recent study has been mixed. Some doctors agree with the findings, and note that safer alternative antibiotics exist, including amoxicillin. Others, however, are skeptical and don't want to limit prescriptions of azithromycin until more research has been conducted.
Still others are most vocal about their belief that antibiotics generally are overused, and are often prescribed to treat conditions for which they are ultimately ineffective.
There may be a need for further research to validate this study's findings. However, for patients with heart disease or heart disease risk factors, it is probably better to be safe than sorry.
Source: New York Times, "Popular Antibiotic May Raise Risk of Sudden Death," Denise Grady, May 16, 2012
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