Zithromax (azithromycin) is a prescription antibiotic medication that is used to treat some bacterial infections. While it is often prescribed for numerous infections, it is only FDA-approved for treating:
- Flare-ups of chronic pulmonary disease due to bacteria
- Bacterial sinusitis
- Skin infections
- Genital ulcers
- Sexually transmitted diseases
Zithromax, or Z-Pak as it is commonly referred to, is a treatment option that lasts only five days, compared with regimens up to ten days for other antibiotic options. The drug is not useful in treating flu, cold or other viral infections.
How It Works
Zithromax, which belongs to the macrolide antibiotic class, prevents bacteria from making proteins needed for growth and stops them from multiplying. Unlike bactericidal antibiotics, this drug does not kill the bacteria. Instead, the bacteria remaining after treatment are either killed by the immune response or die on their own.
Another difference with Z-Pak is that it is transported through the body by white blood cells rather than free-floating in the blood. This allows for higher concentrations of the drug in the infected tissues, which leads to a decrease of doses needed to fight the infection.
There are side effects associated with Zithromax that is considered mild and occur in around 12 percent of patients taking the medication. These mild side effects include abdominal pain, nausea, and diarrhea.
There are also side effects that are considered more severe, and have a frequency during clinical trials of one percent or less:
- Yellowing of the eyes or skin
- Dizziness or vertigo
- Allergic reactions (non-fatal)
- Chest pain
- Heart palpitations
- Decrease in hearing
- Difficulty swallowing or speaking
- Muscle weakness
- Yeast infection
- Oral thrush
If any of these more severe side effects occur, you should contact your physician immediately.
Recent studies have shown that Zithromax is associated with a higher rate of cardiac death when compared with other types of antibiotics. These studies, which showed an increased cardiac risk when the drug was in the system, prompted the FDA to issue a public warning about the drug, stating that it may cause changes in the electrical activity in the heart. These changes in electrical activity could lead to an irregular heart rhythm that could be fatal.
The risk of cardiac death when taking Zithromax increases for those who suffer from specific conditions, including:
- Increased heart failure risk
- History of heart attack
- History of heart disease
Once taken, Zithromax is processed and metabolized in the liver. For patients with abnormal liver function or other liver problems, the drug may cause hepatitis or hepatotoxicity, which may result in decreased appetite, abdominal pain, dark urine, muscle aches, and fatigue. Additionally, these conditions have resulted in death.
While most allergic reactions to Zithromax were mild in clinical studies, there have been cases of anaphylaxis, serious skin reactions, and angioedema, which is sudden swelling. There have been rare incidences of death as a result of allergic reactions.
One of the main problems associated with Zithromax is overuse. When this and other similar drugs are prescribed when they are not needed, it can result in bacteria that build up a resistance to the medication. When this occurs, it can lead to an increase in serious illnesses that do not respond to treatment.
While Zithromax has been available by prescription since 1992, warnings concerning the risk of cardiac death were not issued until 22 years later. As a result, if your loved one died after taking Zithromax, it is recommended that you contact an attorney. The drug maker’s failure to warn the public about these dangers could lead to compensation.