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Antibiotic Azithromycin Won't Harm Healthy Hearts: Study
Date:5/1/2013

g and others in its class, known as macrolides, can cause abnormal changes in the electrical activity of the heart. That, in turn, may lead to a potentially fatal irregular heart rhythm. The FDA warned that those especially at risk of developing the abnormality are those who have existing heart problems such as rhythm abnormalities.

That begged the question about the safety of the antibiotic for those without heart problems.

In the Danish study, supported by grants from the Danish Medical Research Council, Svanstrom and his team looked at data on filled prescriptions, causes of death and patient characteristics.

They looked at azithromycin use compared to no antibiotic use. Patients not using an antibiotic, Svanstrom said, likely did not have an infection at the time.

Using azithromycin for the typical five-day treatment increased the risk of cardiovascular death nearly three times compared to no antibiotic use. When researchers compared azithromycin use to penicillin V use, however, there was no increased risk with the azithromycin.

When they compared each antibiotic by use per 1.1 million people, 17 people on azithromcyin died and 16 on penicillin died.

"This indicates that the increased risk in comparison to non-use is entirely explained by an increased risk of cardiovascular death associated with acute infection, rather than the treatment with azithromycin," Svanstrom said.

Decisions about medication use need to be made after weighing pros and cons, Svanstrom said. "Our study is just one piece of the puzzle," he said. "However, if this drug is needed in the general population, our results do not argue against its use."

The results are good news for those without heart problems, said Dr. Gregg Fonarow, director of the Ahmanson-UCLA Cardiomyopathy Center, who reviewed the study.

"This study provides welcome and reassuring news regarding the cardiovascular safety of the antibiotic azithromycin in the general po
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