Azithromycin, sold under the brand name Zithromax/Zmax, is being issued a stronger warning label by the FDA after it was found it could lead to a fatal heart condition.
The heart condition results from an irregular heartbeat caused by changes in the electrical activity of the heart.
Azithromycin belongs to a class of antibiotics called macrolide antibiotics (referring to a part of their chemical structure) and is used against gram-positive bacteria, for patients with a penicillin allergy, and for many bacteria that penicillin derived antibiotics aren’t effective against. Macrolide antibiotics are already contradicted for use with some heart medications.
This isn’t good news—and not just for the obvious reasons. Azithromycin is a commonly prescribed antibiotic, and with antibiotic resistance mounting, it’s not like there’s a lot of alternative options!
It’s a good reminder to not take antibiotics if you don’t need them. Ideally, find a doctor you’re comfortable with, whose practice isn’t too busy. You don’t want a doctor who will hand you a prescription for antibiotics every time you visit just to get you out the door—it increases antibiotic resistance, and clearly, may have serious consequences for your health. Not to mention, many of the diseases antibiotics are most commonly prescribed for are actually caused by viruses, meaning you receive no benefit, but all of the risks!
Are you allergic to penicillin? Have you been prescribed a macrolide antibiotic recently?