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Stevens Johnson Syndrome Not the Only Risk Option with Zithromax

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Washington, DCAmong the various adverse reactions associated with the use of the antibiotic Zithromax (azithromycin) is Zithromax Stevens Johnson Syndrome, an allergic reaction characterized by rash, blisters and the loss of large swaths of skin akin to serious burns. The unexpected allergic reaction to azithromycin has hospitalized many patients for months, leaving some permanently disfigured. Others have died.

But Zithromax SJS is not the only problem.

A recent study found that Zithromax use in older populations produces a slightly increased risk for heart attack. That said, the use of azithromycin was found to significantly reduce the potential for death in older patients suffering from pneumonia. For this reason, Zithromax finds favor with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which holds that a medication is worthy of the market so long as the benefits for the intended patient constituency outweighs the risks.

In this instance, the benefits do outweigh the risks. But risks are there, nonetheless.

Dr. Eric Mortensen, of the VA North Texas Health Care System and University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, conducted the Zithromax side effects study with colleagues. According to HealthDay News (6/3/14), researchers looked at more than 65,000 patients aged 65 and above treated for pneumonia at VA hospitals over a 10-year span between 2002 and 2012.

The researchers found that three months after hospital admission, death rates were just over 17 percent for patients in the azithromycin (Zithromax) group and about 22 percent in the other group. Patients who received azithromycin had a slightly higher risk of heart attack (5.1 percent v. 4.4 percent), but nearly the same risk for any cardiac event (about 43 percent), heart rhythm disorders (about 26 percent) and heart failure (26 percent).

For every 21 patients treated with Zithromax azithromycin, one death was prevented within 90 days. For every 144 patients treated with Zithromax, there was one heart attack. The bottom line, said researchers, is that Zithromax use in older patients prevents seven deaths for every heart attack it causes.

For the person having the heart attack due to Zithromax, or for the family having lost a loved one due to azithromycin use, the outcome is much less pleasant.

And this is over and above the potential for Zithromax Stevens Johnson Syndrome for those patients who experience an unexpected reaction to azithromycin. Patients can have a reaction to azithromycin following initial use or subsequent use of Zithromax after having used azithromycin successfully in the past. There is no pattern or collective wisdom as to what causes Zithromax SJS in some, but not in others.

But when it happens, it can be serious and sometimes deadly. It can begin with a Zithromax rash than can soon mushroom into full-body blisters. Patients are usually treated in burn units, due to the similarity to serious burns when entire sheets of outer dermis (skin) detaches very much like a burn injury. There is no actual burn. But doctors have previously described SJS, including Zithromax Stevens Johnson Syndrome, as the body burning from the inside out. Blisters can develop in the mouth and other mucous membranes. Eyesight can also be adversely affected, with some patients suffering from temporary or permanent sensitivity to light.

In the most serious cases of such Zithromax reactions, the patient does not survive. This is always tragic no matter who is involved. When it happens to a child - and it has - the loss is traumatic to the family involved.

Many a Zithromax lawsuit has alleged that the manufacturer of Zithromax - and other manufacturers of medications linked to SJS cases - dropped the ball and did not alert consumers or the healthcare industry to the potential for Stevens Johnson Syndrome.

Plaintiffs have told their Zithromax attorney that had they known about the possibility of SJS, they would have switched to a different medication.

For Zithromax Stevens Johnson Syndrome patients who have died, for plaintiffs who have lost loved ones or for those who have been injured themselves, any warning about Zithromax SJS after the fact would have come painfully too late.


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