Study Links Popular Antibiotic Zithromax To Rare But Deadly Heart Risk

Many people use the antibiotic Zithromax, or azithromycin, to treat bronchitis and other common infections. Some surprising results of a 14-year study might turn some off the antibiotic, as it found the risk of sudden deadly heart problems increased with use of Zithromax.

It’s a more expensive antibiotic than others, notes the Associated Press (via, but many people like it because it works in fewer days. Researchers at Vanderbilt University are now suggesting that due to the results of the study, doctors should prescribe other options for anyone already prone to heart problems.

The researchers analyzed health records and data on millions of prescriptions for several antibiotics given to about 540,000 Tennessee Medicaid patients from 1992 to 2006. Among those who took Zithromax during five days of treatment, there were 29 heart-related deaths. That risk was more than double that of patients on amoxicillin, another antibiotic, or those who took none.

Each group had patients with comparable risks of heart troubles, the researcher said. According to the results, there would be about 47 extra heart-related deaths per 1 million courses of treatment with Zithromax, compared to amoxicillin. People usually take Zithromax for about five days, instead of 10 days of amoxicillin or other antibiotics.

*Thanks for the linkage, Amy!

Antibiotic ‘Zithromax’ linked with rare but deadly heart risk []


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  1. consumed says:

    I really don’t trust anything from big pharma. If they really wanted us to be healthy there wouldn’t be all these bajillions of medications. Eastern medicine ftw.

    • Costner says:

      Let me guess – you also probably think vaccines cause autism and that chiropractors can cure asthma?

      Show me the science that proves accupuncture or chakra balancing can cure anything and maybe we can talk, but until they can match the power of penicillin or something like the polio vaccine I’ll stick with what has been proven to work thank-you-very-much.

      I get so sick of this “big pharma” conspiratorial nonsense. Yes they aren’t perfect, but they do a hell of a lot more good than harm, and our quality of life coupled with our ever-increasing lifespans are evidence of that.

      • webweazel says:

        There are risks and benefits to anything. It’s should not be a case of medical + “big pharma” on one side versus alternative on the other side of the line. There should be no war here. Swinging too wildly to one side or the other of that line is not prudent. There is some meeting of the two sides somewhere in the middle. Applying logic, intelligence and lots of research to the problem can determine what will work for you best.

        I rely on both, depending on the situation. This is a good way of looking at things. Vaccines are extremely important, as are antibiotics. There is a vast majority of things that “big pharma” and the medical profession can do extremely well. There are also a lot of things that the medical field is NOT great at. As I like to say, “If it doesn’t come from a prescription pad, they don’t even know it exists.”

        Acupuncture treatments have been researched over the years, and they do actually work for a large majority, although by what mechanism, they still don’t know. They still don’t fully understand how the brain works, either. I look at it this way-if it won’t cause any harm and may have some benefit for a chronic condition, why not try it before moving on to more intrusive/surgical methods? It may work for you after all.

        I go to the chiropractor myself. Do I think it could cure asthma? No, not really. Could it cure my stiff, achy neck, numb patches on my back, and my cranky knees? Yes. Am I walking straighter and feeling more flexible and superb all over? Yes. Do I think it will help prevent arthritis in the future? Yes. Can it cure a blown-out back? Absolutely positively yes. Fixed my husband back to 100% in less than a month after he recently blew his back out BAD after doing something stupid. X-rays showed no physical damage to bones or ligaments, most likely all muscular. If he had gone to an orthopedist, he would most likely be swallowing fistfuls of pills every day, and be in significant pain for the rest of his life. I’ve seen it happen quite often to people in my travels. This is one area where modern medicine usually utterly fails.

        I have used alternative treatments in ridding our son of head lice and for protecting our house and pets from fleas. I am also testing one to prevent these damn nasty staph/MRSA boils that we kept getting. Haven’t had any since, so it seems to be working. These treatments are not only less (much, much less) expensive, but extremely effective overall, with the added benefit of having no manufactured chemicals in them. There is a benefit to some things on both sides. Those who dismiss one or the other simply out of hand with a strict bias for one side or the other are not thinking clearly.

    • qwickone says:

      I rely on eastern medicine for chronic conditions, particularly when western medicine hasn’t helped (much). This includes migraines and carpal tunnel. My hand had become essentially useless and my western doctor told me that surgery was my only remaining option. I’m getting acupuncture now and I couldn’t be happier. I realized it’s anecdotal and I don’t even care if it’s placebo effect – all I know is that it’s working for me.

      I still take my meds for non-chronic conditions and they still work well for that.

    • Dreadcthulhu says:

      Does “Eastern” medicine ever do follow-up studies like this, that can detect if a treatment is causing deaths for 47 out of a million people, compared to a similar treatment? How do you know that acupuncture or ground up endangered animal parts don’t cause heart problems at similar levels?

  2. Blueskylaw says:

    Is Zithromax one of the Transformers like Decepticon?

  3. Cat says:

    Side effects are out of control… Example, Zoloft:

    Some of the more common side effects may include:

    Abdominal pain, agitation, anxiety, constipation, decreased sex drive, diarrhea or loose stools, difficulty with ejaculation, dizziness, dry mouth, fatigue, gas, headache, and decreased appetite are some of the more common Zoloft side effects. And, they also may include increased sweating, indigestion, insomnia, nausea, nervousness, rash, pain, sleepiness, sore throat, tingling or pins and needles, tremor, vision problems and vomiting.

    Less common or rare Zoloft side effects may include:

    Acne, allergic reaction, altered taste, back pain, blindness, breast development in males, breast pain or enlargement, breathing difficulties, bruise-like marks on the skin, cataracts, changeable emotions, chest pain, cold, clammy skin, conjunctivitis (pinkeye), coughing, difficulty breathing, difficulty swallowing, double vision, dry eyes, eye pain, fainting, feeling faint upon arising from a sitting or lying position, feeling of illness, female and male sexual problems, and fluid retention. Other less common Zoloft side effects may include blushing, frequent urination, hair loss, heart attack, hemorrhoids, hiccups, high blood pressure, high pressure within the eye (glaucoma), hearing problems, hot flushes, impotence, inability to stay seated, increased appetite, increased salivation, increased sex drive, inflamed nasal passages, inflammation of the penis, intolerance to light, irregular heartbeat, itching, joint pains, kidney failure, lack of coordination, lack of sensation, leg cramps, menstrual problems, low blood pressure, migraine, movement problems, muscle cramps or weakness, need to urinate during the night, nosebleed, pain upon urination, prolonged erection, purplish spots on the skin, racing heartbeat, rectal hemorrhage, respiratory infection/lung problems, ringing in the ears, rolling eyes, sensitivity to light, sinus inflammation, skin eruptions or inflammation, sleepwalking, sore on tongue, speech problems, stomach and intestinal inflammation, swelling of the face and throat, swollen wrist and ankles, thirst, throbbing heartbeat, twitching, vaginal inflammation, hemorrhage or discharge, and yawning.

    Rectal hemorrhage? Inflammation of the penis?

    (But I’m surprisingly good with “prolonged erection”)

    • Blueskylaw says:

      I had inflammation of the penis once after I met this Redhead at Wendy’s
      once. All I wanted was a specialty coffee and I walk away with this.

    • Maz says:

      They’re legally obligated to list any and all side-effects that may have occurred during the human trials. Legal liability. Whether or not the medication caused these effects is not proven, just that they happened during the trials.

    • Maz says:

      They’re legally obligated to list any and all side-effects that may have occurred during the human trials. Legal liability. Whether or not the medication caused these effects is not proven, just that they happened during the trials.

    • lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

      Wow – menstrual problems, even in men? That’s some powerful stuff :)

      • NotEd says:

        Menstrual problems does imply you Menstruate as a prerequisite condition.
        Sort of like vaginal inflammation implies an existing vagina.

    • The Porkchop Express says:

      just inflamed or does it get gross looking?

      *waiting before talking to my doctor about Zoloft.

      **depending on the answer, hoping astrazinika (or whatever) can help

    • nugatory says:

      try reading the list of side effects for Cipro.

      The first time I took it the pharmacist handed me a three page handout of the side effects and said “I’d suggest you don’t read this, because if you did, you wouldn’t want to take it and you really do need to take it. If you have ANY problems call your doctor immediately”.

      One of the lovely side effects is that it can cause your tendons to snap.

    • markvii says:

      Jeff Foxworthy nailed it during his “bit” on medicine side effects. “May curdle the milk in your fridge, scratch your CD’s and DVD’s, give you dog worms, get your daughter pregnant…”

      These lists of side effects try to say everything and end up saying nothing.

  4. Lethe says:

    I can’t wait for the scummy lawyer commercials to start:

    Have YOU, or someone you know, had any health problems after taken Zithromax? You may be entitled to MILLIONS to help with your medical bills. Call 1-800-ACH-ASER to speak with a lawyer now!

    • Marlin says:

      Don’t worry they will be on right after the…
      “Are your legs restless? if so we have a over priced drug that shows very little improvement and is not covered by your insurance company that may help…”

    • gman863 says:

      These ads should be simplified.

      “Do you have any medical condition? Has anyone died in your family? Fax us a list of what you or they have taken in the past twenty years and we’ll find a way to get you money. Call 1-800-BAD-LAWYER now.

  5. mistyfire says:

    Am currently taking this for my pneumonia. :(

    • Marlin says:

      I’m so sorry to hear that… can I have your stuff?

      • mistyfire says:

        I can give you the illness, I am so sick of being sick! but sadly I need the pills to be allowed back at work. :(

        • nugatory says:

          Still getting over a bout myself. I went through three different anti-biotics before I got rid of the infection. It seems that in the last few years, anytime I get an infection, I end up on Levaquin or Cipro. I do everything I can to avoid Cipro.

    • Cat says:

      Get emergency medical help if you have any of these signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficulty breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

      Call your doctor at once if you have a serious side effect such as:

      diarrhea that is watery or bloody;
      chest pain, uneven heartbeats;
      nausea, stomach pain, low fever, loss of appetite, dark urine, clay-colored stools, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes); or
      fever, sore throat, and headache with a severe blistering, peeling, and red skin rash.

      Less serious side effects may include:

      mild nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation;
      stomach pain or upset;
      dizziness, tired feeling, or headache;
      nervous feeling, sleep problems (insomnia);
      vaginal itching or discharge;
      mild itching or skin rash;
      ringing in your ears, problems with hearing; or
      decreased sense of taste or smell.

    • Costner says:

      So sorry to hear that your risk of heart complications has doubled. You now have a 00000.5% of being affected!

      Of course if you don’t have any pre-existing heart conditions or any of the many other contributing factors, your risk is even less.

      Meanwhile, your risk of dying from complications surrounding a spider bite are probably just as high.

      I’d say you are probably going to pull through. Just a guess.

  6. redskull says:

    Every day at work the TV in the lunchroom is tuned to WGN America, and virtually EVERY commercial they play is about lawsuits for prescription drugs. And it’s not just the same two or three commercials being played over and over, there are dozens of different ones. Thank God I’m not on any medication.

    Obviously these drugs were rushed into production without proper testing, or more likely WITH proper testing that showed the potential for deadly side effects. The drug companies no doubt figure what’s a few lawsuits when there are billions to be made.

    • The Twilight Clone says:

      or maybe the lawyers are out of control. different way of looking at it.

    • KyBash says:

      The problem with testing is the question of how big of a sample you need.

      This drug’s evil side shows 47 out of a 1,000,000 patients. If the drug company tested it on 100,000 people, they would have seen it because it would have been 4 or 5 people. If they only tested it on 10,000, then less than half a person, so it probably wouldn’t have shown up at all.

      The more people you test, the more side-effects you have to list because everything that happens to any of your test subjects has to be recorded. If two of your test subjects got hit by a bus, you’d be legally bound to list getting hit by a bus as a possible side effect!

  7. vicissitude says:

    One thing not mentioned is this is an alternative to people allergic to the ‘cillin’s, like my family members and I am. Personally, I think the pharmaceutical industry IS the new drug pusher, except instead of being on your local corner, they’re on signs everywhere, in your TV, radio and print media, invading your senses everywhere you are…

  8. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    I look at this a different way. I just can’t imagine that drug companies rush drugs through production that they know will cause harm and death, as the inevitible outcome is a hoard of lawyers decending on them like locusts.

    I can believe that even when they do drug trials, they can’t possibly take into account every single person’s sensitivity to every single thing. When people by the millions start to take the drug, the chances for something bad to happen increase, and then we have the commercials, lawyers, class action suits, etc. I think it’s more to get money for the lawyers than anything else.

    That being said, if a drug company purposely hides bad side effects that they know would cause injury or death, nuke them from orbit. Otherwise, if something weird comes out because 10 million people have taken something, and a few have problems that didn’t come up during trials, then take appropriate measures.

    • psm321 says:

      This. I’m not pro-big-pharma, but ridiculous reactions like we see in some of the comments here would prevent any progress in medicines. Would these people have preferred a 14 year study BEFORE the drug was available to people who might need it?

      • lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

        I think some lawsuits are warranted, like the one where companies used mesh in abdominal surgery that they knew would fail. My Mom is a victim of this – she went through painful surgery to correct some internal problems, only to have the mesh dissolve. She’s in pain, again, and having the same problems as before. She recently learned the hospital used the same mesh as they’re showing on the TV ads. At the very least, that company should reimburse Medicare and my Mom’s other insurance company or pay to have it all done again totally at their cost if she wants the surgery (with good mesh this time).

        But a lot of this smacks of ambulance chasing, as the attorneys get fat settlements, and I think it makes companies more leery of producing new drugs that people really need and should be able to work with their doctor and decide the pros and cons. I know if my doctor said, hey, you’re gonna die, but we have a new drug that will help you and you won’t die. But you could turn purple and your hair may fall out. I think that’s up to me and the doctor to decide which is worse.

  9. Dr.Wang says:

    People frequently ask about side effects before I hand them a pill or push an IV med, which is a good idea. But the thing that most dont understand is that these are rare events. Just because they list side effects does not mean you are going to have any of them. Most meds have the same list of potential side effects. And few people take them as directed when they get home anyway.

    I am always amazed at the people that come to the ER then tell us that they don’t like taking meds, which makes me wonder then exactly why they came to us knowing that is what we do? Or they are prescribed an antibiotic med, then they call their homeopathic practice person and ask if they should be taking this med that the ER doc ordered.

  10. Caffinehog says:

    Zithromax kills 47 people per 1 million customers. But how many people does it save from what would be deadly infections?

    • Clyde Barrow says:

      47 is insignificant statistically however, it is about human life. What should be mentioned is what exactly are the additional causes to the deaths? I highly doubt it is caused by azithromycin alone but by azithromycin AND other factors. Rarely one cause is the only issue.

  11. Clyde Barrow says:

    Funny. I was taking azithromycin this past December for a case of bronchitis. Worked great. And because I am a healthy male with no heart problems, meh.

  12. OMG_BECKY says:


  13. OMG_BECKY says:

    I am crippled thanks to TWELVE Cipro pills I took in 2009. There is NO accountability for Big Pharma!!! NONE! The FDA is bought and paid for!

  14. Press1forDialTone says:

    A Word About “Side Effects” noted during drug testing:


    The most important category of effects to note about any medicine is how frequently
    the event occurred across -all- the subjects vs. the same event occurring in the group
    taking the placebo. For example, if an event occurred 1% in the placebo group and
    10% in the treatment study group and that is a statistically significant difference, then
    pay attention, and if that event occurs for you, report it to your doctor immediately.
    Remember some studies are huge and go on for years often in more than one country.
    10% or higher may reflect in the end a very small number.
    But side effects do occur for some folks. One famous one that is real but is
    manageable (I am living proof) is how Prozac and the other SSRI class (Zoloft, etc)
    antidepressants kill your libido while you take them. They do but for a good reason
    actually. Since you should NEVER take any psychotropic medicines without seeing
    a psychologist/psychiatrist combo or just a psychiatrist that provides the talking
    part of the therapy, here is the reason why. Truly clinically depressed people experience
    little joy or feeling good, they have low affect, cry inappropriately, have emotional
    responses that are strange or inappropriate, are very tired, etc etc etc. They have trouble
    communicating the things that are happening to them and what they think might be
    causing them as information to the therapist. Prozac is especially good at toning down
    the right-side/emotive side of the brain and perking up the left-size/reasoning-judging
    side of the brain. This helps patients benefit from therapy. Prozac is a tool to be used
    WITH therapy. I was on Prozac (augmented with Wellbutrin XL which stimulates dopamine
    and gave me a bit of mojo back) and recovered with treatment. I went off of Prozac and
    wham bam: my libido was back in full, my emotions were not out of control and satisfying
    and appropriate once again.

    The take-away is this: There ARE some amazing medications to treat illnesses of all kinds
    available to doctors. Doctors need to be better educated (not by the sales rep either)
    about the medicines. Some work very very well and have almost not side effects for
    the vast majority of people.

    Get smart about the medicines you might need to take, work with your doctor to pick
    the best one for you in a given situation, take the medicine exactly as you are supposed
    to. People who stopped taking an antibiotic before they took the full course of treatment
    THAT MEDICINE USELESS FOR THE REST OF US. Get educated and stop whining
    and blaming everyone but yourself for being lazy about your health and health care.

  15. Press1forDialTone says:

    Cipro is an excellent medicine for most people, for a small percentage it can
    cause problems with the ligature. A good doctor will say this (as mine did each
    time I had to take Cipro (2-4 times over 10 years): If after 2-3 days, you notice
    -any- soreness in your wrists, ankles, knees, shoulders, STOP taking the medicine
    and call my office and we will pick another product. Cipro -is- the go-to medicine for
    severe infections involving the respiratory tract, the intestinal track, but it is only used
    because other doctors and patients have abused other antibiotics so they no longer
    work. Don’t blame the FDA and pharma, blame yourselves and careless doctors who
    don’t know enough about the medicines they prescribe. They need mandatory life-long
    training in a variety of areas in order to keep their license to practice mandated by
    Health and Human Services and if they don’t keep up, they lose the ability the bill
    medicaid and medicare and if they continue to fall behind, they lose their license.
    Severe yes, effective yes.