WEDNESDAY, May 16 (HealthDay News) -- The widely prescribed antibiotic azithromycin may slightly raise the risk of death in patients with heart disease, a new study suggests.
Several antibiotics have been tied to an increased risk of sudden death among heart patients, and recent reports have suggested azithromycin (Zithromax) might be part of that group, said the researchers, from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.
"For patients with elevated cardiovascular risk, the cardiovascular effects of azithromycin may be an important clinical consideration," said study author Wayne Ray, a professor of preventive medicine at the school. "All antibiotics have risks and benefits, which must be considered in the prescribing decision."
When patients and their doctors consider an antibiotic, they should weigh the heart risks of azithromycin against the severity of the infection and the effectiveness of alternative antibiotics, Ray said.
"We found that amoxicillin, often used for similar indications as azithromycin, conferred no cardiovascular risk," he noted.
For the study, published in the May 17 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, Ray's team collected data on nearly 348,000 Medicaid patients taking azithromycin, as well as people taking other antibiotics.
The sample size included more than 1.3 million patients taking amoxicillin (Amoxil, Moxatag, Trimox, Wymox), more than 264,000 people taking ciprofloxacin (Cipro), and nearly 194,000 patients taking levofloxacin (Levaquin). Another 1.3 million people not taking antibiotics were also included in the study.
Over a five-day period, people taking azithromycin had a slightly increased risk of sudden cardiac death, compared with those not taking any antibiotics. Patients taking amoxicillin had no increase in death risk, the study authors said.
The researchers calculated the absolute risk a
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