Common antibiotic linked to risk of sudden death, study finds

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An antibiotic frequently used to treat pneumonia and bronchitis is linked to a higher risk of sudden death in adults, particularly those with heart conditions, a new study reveals. 

Azithromycin, which is frequently referred to as a “Z-Pak,” was generally believed to be safer than antibiotics such as erythromycin and clarithromycin. Previous studies have linked erythromycin with a higher risk for heart attack. 

However, when researchers from Vanderbilt University calculated the rate of deaths per million courses of treatment, based on the medical records of about 540,000 Medicaid recipients, azithromycin had 64.6 deaths per million courses. Amoxicillin was much lower, with a rate of 21.8, according to the study.

Individuals with conditions such as heart failure, or who have undergone a bypass, are considered to be at a higher risk for death, the New York Times reported. 

The study was published May 17 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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