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Does Over-Prescribing Lead to Increased Zithromax Side Effects?

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Washington, DCThe problems with medication of any kind remain the side effects that almost always serve to counterbalance the benefit. To that end, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the government regulatory body riding shotgun over the nation’s prescription drug culture, cannot say with any certainty that a drug is completely safe. It can, however, hold that a drug is “not unsafe” given the benefit for the intended patient community. That benefit must outweigh any risks for a drug to be considered an acceptable risk overall. So what does all this have to do with Zithromax side effects?

The clue is in a syndicated column penned by Dr. Andrew Smith and appearing in The Daily Times of Maryville, Tennessee (9/2/13). The subject is the misuse of antibiotics, often over-prescribed by doctors as a quick fix for a malady, or consumers having become over-dependent on them to clean up an infection quickly. Given a modern work environment that demands the capacity for multitasking and availability 24/7, there is little opportunity or patience for illness.

For his column “Antibiotics aren’t the answer every time,” Smith uses Z-pak (Zithromax, or Azithromycin) to illustrate his point. When Z-pak was introduced 20 years ago, it proved so effective at eradicating practically any bacterial infection that patients began asking for it as “their thing” to clean up an approaching or raging infection, in order to reduce downtime and get back up to speed. But then a funny thing happened: Z-pak began to weaken, as more and more strains of bacterial infection began to build up resistance against the once-mighty Azithromycin.

Smith’s point is that powerful antibiotics such as Zithromax should be reserved for the most serious infections. Taking Zithromax or Z-pak for minor infections, or even for complaints for which Azithromycin was not even designed to combat, not only introduces needless Zithromax side effects into the equation, but weakens the antibiotic to the point where patients need to take it more often, or for longer periods, for it to be effective (if it can effective at all, given the resistance many bacterial strains build up…).

The foregoing has an impact on the FDA’s mandate for a drug to be considered “not unsafe” so long as the benefit outweighs the risk for the intended patient. This also assumes the drug will be used as directed. But this often does not happen, given Dr. Smith’s illustration. Given also that a physician has the moral, legal and medical authority to supersede FDA guidelines in the prescription of drugs or the use of medical devices, and suddenly the FDA’s guidelines hold little practical meaning.

And this is where Zithromax side effects come in - and there are plenty of them. One that worries a lot of people is the potential for Zithromax Stevens Johnson Syndrome, an albeit rare but potentially deadly condition that affects the upper and lower layers of dermis (skin) and membranes. Some patients having battled Zithromax SJS typify the condition as the body burning from inside out.

Various medications have the potential to trigger SJS, and Zithromax is one of them. It can start with Zithromax rash, and quickly escalate without warning to something far more serious that often sees patients land in the burn unit.

Some are left with permanent scarring on their Zithromax skin. Others suffer permanent eye damage, such as light sensitivity. And sometimes it can prove fatal; leaving the family of a deceased loved one to seek out a Zithromax lawyer.

There are other Zithromax side effects, including heart problems that the famed Mayo Clinic articulates this way: “[Azithromycin] can cause changes in heart rhythms, such as a condition called QT prolongation. It may change the way your heart beats and cause fainting or serious side effects in some patients. Contact your doctor right away if you or your child has any symptoms of heart rhythm problems, such as fast, pounding, or irregular heartbeats.”

The FDA has previously issued warnings with regard to the potential for irregular heart rhythms and cardiac events related to Zithromax side effects. Health Canada, the Canadian equivalent to the FDA, followed suit this past spring.

And the FDA is fully aware of the potential for Zithromax reactions such as Stevens Johnson Syndrome, given its previous stance with Zithromax manufacturer Pfizer when it took the pharmaceutical giant to task over marketing materials that downplayed the possibility of Zithromax rash that is often a precursor to Zithromax Stevens Johnson Syndrome.

Still, at the end of the day, Zithromax side effects are not enough for the FDA, despite warnings by its own staff, other researchers and the Mayo Clinic, to pull Zithromax from the market. For the intended constituency of patients, the benefits outweigh the risks, in the FDA’s view, making Zithromax and Z-pak an acceptable risk and “not unsafe,” provided it is used as directed.

But is it always used as directed? Is it always used only when needed, and not over-prescribed as Dr. Smith suggested Z-pak and other antibiotics like it might be? And does the FDA factor that possibility into its risk/benefit calculations?

Questions that often lead to a Zithromax lawsuit…

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