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Zithromax Side Effects: What Patients Don’t Know, Won’t Hurt Them?

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Bethesda, MDBuried deep in the archival bowels of the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) is the story of a 62-year-old woman prescribed a popular pharmaceutical for an upper respiratory tract infection. That antibiotic was Zithromax (azithromycin). And it left her with a case of Zithromax Stevens Johnson Syndrome.

The case is oft cited when discussing the link between the sometimes deadly skin condition and Zithromax side effects. No one knows what causes SJS, or why it appears in some individuals and not in others. While the risk is small, the fact remains that Zithromax - as are other medications - is suspected of serving as a trigger in some individuals that can lead to an allergic reaction with the potential to rapidly progress to a dire situation.

In the case of this patient, according to the NCBI abstract, a cycle of Zithromax was prescribed, and within a few days of starting on Zithromax, her respiratory infection symptoms had eased. However, in tandem with the easing of her respiratory symptoms was the emergence of erythematous rash developed over her palms, accompanied by fever and chills as well as reddish discoloration around her eyes. Within a few additional days what was presumed as Zithromax rash had progressed to her feet.

She was finally admitted to the hospital 10 days after starting on Zithromax with skin lesions symptomatic of presumed Zithromax Stevens Johnson Syndrome. The patient eventually recovered.

However, not everyone does. In its online prescribing information to doctors, Zithromax manufacturer Pfizer notes the rare potential for Zithromax reactions in some patients that can lead to Stevens Johnson Syndrome or toxic epidermal necrolysis, a more serious form of SJS. “Although rare, fatalities have been reported,” the website states.

The reference to fatalities is not seen in patient information posted to the same Zithromax page on the Pfizer website, although there is a reference to the potential for “serious” Zithromax side effects.

“Allergic reactions to ZITHROMAX (original emphasis) are rare, but these can be very serious if not treated right away by a doctor. If you think your child might be having an allergic reaction to ZITHROMAX, stop the medicine and call the doctor right away. If you cannot reach the doctor, go to the nearest hospital emergency room. Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction may include trouble breathing; swelling of the face, mouth and neck; or severe skin rash or blisters.”

Stevens Johnson Syndrome is not referenced at all in documents intended for the patient, and in the aforementioned statement, skewed to the parent(s) of a child. The potential for rare fatalities is also not referenced. Presumably, it is up to the doctor to share the potential for dire consequences from a possible allergic reaction, with the patient or parent.

Is it a case, then, of what the patients don’t know, won’t hurt them?

Any Zithromax patient kept in the dark about the potential for Zithromax SJS could be forgiven for filing a Zithromax lawsuit. Had they known, they might have chosen a different course of treatment that might have spared them and their family the pain, expense - and sometimes loss - associated with Stevens Johnson Syndrome.

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