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Popular antibiotic in new death risk

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Unread 06.06.12, 09:17 AM
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Popular antibiotic in new death risk



One minute, you're fighting off a common cold. The next, you're pushing up daisies -- all because your doctor gave you a drug you didn't even need in the first place.

The antibiotic azithromycin (Zithromax) won't do a thing for your cold or any other viral illness for that matter. It's supposed to be reserved for serious bacterial infections like bronchitis, bacterial pneumonia, STDs, and such.

But since docs can't tell when a run-of-the-mill cold might really be a bacterial infection (hint: almost never), he'll give you that Z-Pak anyway and tell you it's "just to be safe."

SAFE??? Safe my rear end!!!

Here's how "safe" it is: A new study finds that Zithromax can TRIPLE the risk of cardiovascular death when compared to getting no meds at all -- and double that risk when compared to another common (and equally overused) antibiotic, amoxicillin.

The feds say the overall risk is small, but I'm not even sure what "small" is when it comes to heart death. One in a billion? One in a million? One in a hundred thousand?

Try "none of the above." The overall risk for Zithromax is 85 in a million. That's 47 in a million more than amoxicillin, or one extra death among every 21,277 users.

Not exactly "struck by lightning" or "win the lottery" odds -- and if you already have a high risk of heart disease, you're really rolling the dice. Your risk swells to 245 extra heart deaths per million courses of azithromycin.

That's 1 in 4,082.

I don't know about you, but that doesn't sound small to me at all.

But let's face facts here, because all this may be moot soon enough anyway. Azithromycin has been so overused that bacteria of all kinds are rapidly learning to resist it -- making it increasingly useless against many common infections. I've told you before about the dangers of antibiotic resistance. And you can Google "azithromycin resistance" for even more on the subject.


WilliamCampbell Douglass II, M.D.

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