A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine reported a small increase in heart-related deaths in patients treated with a 5-day course of azithromycin (Z-Pak, Zithromax), when compared to those taking an alternative antibiotic or no drug at all. The 14-year-study found that there were 29 cardiovascular deaths among Zithromax users during five days of treatment. The risk of heart-related death while taking this antibiotic was reportedly more than twice that of patients taking amoxicillin or no antibacterial drug.
Researchers at Vanderbilt University looked at medical records and data on millions of antibiotic prescriptions written for Medicaid recipients between 1992 and 2006. Their study revealed that patients taking azithromycin had two-and-a-half times the odds of dying from a cardiovascular cause while taking the five-day antibiotic course than amoxicillin users. While the overall risk of cardiac death in azithromycin was small, the highest risk was found in azithromycin patients with existing heart problems.
The lead author of this study said that the risk of cardiovascular risk may outweigh the convenience of the drug, particularly for high risk patients. It is believed that azithromycin is often prescribed over amoxicillin because the patient can take fewer pills over fewer days, increasing the likelihood that they will finish their medication, as failure to do so may lead to the development of a drug-resistant bug.
If Pfizer, the manufacturer of this antibiotic, failed to properly warn patients of the cardiovascular death risk, legal recourse may be available to those who lost a loved one due to a heart-related death on Z-Pak. Potentially, these individuals may be able to file a claim seeking compensation for medical bills, funeral expenses and other damages.