Antibiotic Commonly Used for COPD Now Considered Dangerous to Some

Recently, the Food and Drug Administration has found Azithromycin, a common antibiotic, to be a contributing factor to deaths caused by a certain type of heart arrhythmia. The type of arrhythmia in particular is called “torsades de pointes”, and all of those who were effected by azithromycin didn't specifically have a history of arrhythmia. The FDA is now requiring the inclusion of a warning regarding this newly found danger. This study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, and the study was conducted in the summer of 2012.

Azithromycin, also commonly known as a Zithromax, or “Z pack”, has been prescribed to COPD patients to prevent exacerbations. COPD exacerbations are flare-ups in the condition that can be dangerous, cause COPD to worsen, or even cause death in those with end stage COPD. Exacerbations are often caused by bacterial or viral infections, or viruses that have the potential of turning into bacterial infections. These infects, when they've been allowed to spread to the lungs in the form of even a regular chest cold, can severely complicate the condition of people with chronic lung diseases.

This particular antibiotic is commonly prescribed to people with COPD because it isn't one of the stronger antibiotics, so it is generally thought to be easier on the system, with still being effective in preventing illnesses and exacerbations.

The risk of sudden cardiac death from taking azithromycin is still rare, but high enough for the FDA to take action to release a warning. If you have a history of arrhythmia or other heart conditions, you will need to talk to your doctor about switching to a different antibiotic, if he or she hasn't done so already. The deaths from torsades de pointes occurred in some people who were only take the antibiotic for the usual 5 day dose, and not on a regular basis like people who are taking it with COPD.

If you are at any risk of heart failure, or if you've ever had stents, a heart attack, or if you've ever undergone a heart bypass surgery, you are at a greater risk of dying from an arrhythmia while taking even a short dose of azithromycin. Many people who have COPD also have cardiac disease, because of the strain put on the heart by the lack of oxygen in the bloodstream.

Besides taking an antibiotic, there are other ways you can protect yourself from the viruses that get passed around, and the bacteria that cause illnesses. To boost your immune system, eat foods that are high in vitamins A, E and C, like most fruits and vegetables. Try to consume about 5 cups of fruits and veggies each day, the fresher and more raw, the better.

Drinking enough water and getting plenty of sleep will also make sure your immune system is in good working order, as long as you have no underlying autoimmune disorders. Try to reduce stress as much as possible, and get around 25 minutes of physical activity each day, in the way of walking or riding a bike.

Information on this page is for reference and educational purposes only. For more information about COPD, talk to your doctor or primary care provider.

About Scott Ridl: Scott joined American Medical Sales and Rentals in 2008 as a Web Manager and Content Writer. He is a writer and designer. He is extensively trained on oxygen therapy products from leading manufacturers such as Inogen, Respironics, Chart, Invacare, ResMed and more. Scott works closely with respiratory therapists and oxygen specialists to educate the community about oxygen therapy products, COPD, asthma and lung diseases. He writes weekly columns and is passionate about educating the community on oxygen therapy and respiratory issues.

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