Product Liability Watch: Zithromax and Fatal Heart Attacks

bluepills.jpgProduct liability attorneys know that people trust that the medication prescribed by doctors has been properly vetted.

Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. For some, the only recompense is filing a product liability lawsuit.

Just recently, our attorneys became aware of the fact that an antibiotic, which has been commonly-prescribed for bronchitis and other run-of-the-mill infections, increases your chances of a sudden and deadly heart attack.

The new information is being published by researchers at Vanderbilt University, who spent 14 years studying Zithromax, or azithromycin. This powerful antibiotic is often chosen over other less expensive alternatives because users need only take it for a handful of days, as opposed to a week or more using other medications.

However, this research would seem to indicate that doctors would be wise to prescribe something else, particularly for people who are already known to have heart problems.

Here’s what the study indicates:

Culling through data for millions of prescribed antibiotics dolled out to nearly 550,000 Medicaid patients in Tennessee between 1992 and 2006, there were reportedly nearly 30 heart-related deaths among those individuals who took Zithromax over the course of a five-day treatment.

This may not seem like a huge amount, but in fact it is more than double the rate of those patients who either took a different antibiotic or who took nothing at all.

In trying to calculate the risk, scientists determined that the risk of death per 1 million courses (or doses) of the antibiotic would be about 85 for patients who took Zithromax versus about 32 for patients who took amoxicillin and 30 among patients who took no antibiotic.

Those who were at the highest risk for a heart attack death while on Zithromax were reportedly already known to have heart problems. But it’s believed that the Zithromax contributed to a number of those deaths, the scientists said. They reported that there are roughly nearly 50 additional heart-related deaths per 1 million among those who took Zithromax, versus those who took amoxicillin.

With Zithromax, patients take the medicine for about 5 days. With amoxicillin, the patient consumes doses over the course of 10 days.

Drug makers charge about double for Zithromax what they do for other antibiotic treatments, though you can find it online for several dollars per pill.

The study, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, was funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

Zithromax, which is primarily marketed by Pfizer Inc., has been around in the U.S. for the last 20 years. Common ailments it is used to treat include sinus infections, pneumonia and bronchitis. In a single year, Americans spent some $465 million on the drug in 2011.

Pfizer has said it will take a look at the study, while continuing to closely monitor any reports of negative side effects. However, given Pfizer’s past record with regard to product liability, our attorneys believe this is a situation in which patients need to educate themselves and become proactive.

The Ferraro Law Firm provides comprehensive legal services, including product liability cases. Call 1-800-275-3332 for a free and confidential consultation. Offices in Miami, Washington, D.C., and New York City.

Additional Resources:
Antibiotic Linked With Rare but Deadly Heart Risk, By Lindsay Tanner, Associated Press

More Blog Entries:
Pfizer Birth Control Recall Highlights Defective Drug Issues, Feb. 9, 2012, Product Liability Lawyers Blog

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