Popular Antibiotics linked to heart problems and death. The benefit does not always outweigh the risks.

Antibiotics are used to treat infections caused by bacteria, fungi, and certain parasites.  They are often prescribed for a minor sinus infection but are also used in the treatment of life-threatening illnesses.  The problem lies in the fact that they are prescribed hand over fist and can cause more potential harm than good.

Overuse of antibiotics can lead to bacteria becoming resistant meaning it will no longer work effectively in fighting the bacteria.  The last thing you want to do is take an antibiotic so many times for something minor and end up in the hospital with a serious illness and no way to effectively treat it.

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Case 1:  Zithromax

In early 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released the results of a study that found the popular antibiotic Azithromycin (commonly known as Zithromax or a Z-pack) guilty of causing irregular heart rhythms which could be fatal.

In it’s safety announcement, it stated “can cause abnormal changes in the electrical activity of the heart that may lead to a potentially fatal irregular heart rhythm. Patients at particular risk for developing this condition include those with known risk factors such as existing QT interval prolongation, low blood levels of potassium or magnesium, a slower than normal heart rate, or use of certain drugs used to treat abnormal heart rhythms, or arrhythmias.  This communication is a result of our review of a study by medical researchers as well as another study by a manufacturer of the drug that assessed the potential for azithromycin to cause abnormal changes in the electrical activity of the heart.” 

The warning labels were updated to notify patients of this risk and healthcare providers were advised to consider the risk when prescribing the drug.

Case 2:  Levaquin

In April 2009, the FDA issued a safety warning on Levaquin (levofloxacin) to include dangers of tendon rupture or swelling of the tendon (tendinitis).  In 2013, the FDA again issued a warning that fluoroquinolone antibiotics, taken by mouth or injection, stating that they carry a risk for permanent peripheral neuropathy.

Several drugs in this class have been taken off the market due to their deadly adverse effects, but six of them, including Levaquin, remain FDA-approved for use in the United States:

  • Ciprofloxacin (Cipro)
  • Gemifloxacin (Factive)
  • Moxifloxacin (Avelox)
  • Ofloxacin (Floxin)
  • Norfloxacin (Noroxin)

A case out of Atlanta, Georgia:  http://www.wsbtv.com/news/news/local/local-woman-says-popular-antibiotic-killed-her-hus/njzwj/

I will not sit here and tell you that antibiotics are never necessary because that is simply not true.  There are certain illnesses in which they are a necessary evil and the benefits do outweigh the risks.  You should discuss your individual concerns with your primary care physician and make sure he/she knows your complete health history.    When visiting an urgent care facility or emergency room, it is very important that you let that physician know your history, as they probably do not have access to your chart, which should include drug allergies, health conditions, etc.

Please remember that as you can see above in discussing Levaquin, most drugs have multiple generics available in different names!  For example, there are multiple over the counter drugs on the shelves now that are nothing more than Benadryl, but are labelled more accordingly to their target market.  Dramamine is Benadryl.  Vicks ZZZ Quill is Benadryl.   I encourage each of you to be your own doctor and pharmacist any time you are taking a new prescribed medication.

When battling an illness, you must consider:

  1.  Do you have a common cold or just severe allergies? Do you have the flu?
  2.  Is it bacterial or viral?
  3.  Will an antibiotic truly make you better, quicker?

Research shows that people who take antibiotics generally feel better 1-2 days quicker than those who do not.  I say take the extra day of rest and let your body heal itself naturally.  Let your immune system work!  Treat the symptoms with natural remedies and keep an eye on your fever.  Remember, a fever is the body fighting the illness.  Any time you suspect the flu, it is wise to get a flu test at your local doctor’s office and then make an informed decision about whether to take something like Tamiflu or continue to treat the symptoms and let it run its course.

I cannot stress enough….. Do you own research! Read about the risks before deciding whether to take any medication!   Your body and your health are unique to every other patient, and your life may depend on it.

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Sources:  FDA.gov, Mercola, WSB-TV

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