Antibiotic lowers risk of death among pneumonia patients

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The antibiotic Zithromax lowers the risk of death for those with pneumonia, although it slightly increases the risk of a heart attack, new research shows.

Researchers analyzed data from about 64,000 pneumonia patients aged 65 and older who were treated at Veteran Administration acute care hospitals from 2002 to 2012. About half received azithromycin while the other half did not.

After ninety days of hospital admission, the death rate for patients in the azithromycin group was a little over 17% and about 22% for the other group. Within 90 days, one death for every 21 patients treated with azithromycin was prevented; however, the azithromycin group had a slightly higher risk of heart attack (5.1% vs. 4.4%).

Although the risk for heart attack is slightly higher, researchers found that the risk of cardiac arrhythmias, heart failure and any cardiac event were about the same.

Long-term care residents should be assessed frequently for pneumonia, experts advise.

Results appeared in JAMA Wednesday.
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