Common antibiotic linked to sudden heart deaths

21/08/2014 17:29

Telegraph

An antibiotic taken by millions of patients has been linked to heart deaths prompting researchers to call for an 'urgent' evaluation.

A Dutch study found that people taking clarithromycin were 76 per cent more likely to die than those taking penicillin and the risk was greater in women who were more than twice as likely to die.

Clarithromycin is used for respiratory infections and 2.2m doses were prescribed in 2013 in England.

Experts said the findings do not prove that the drug is dangerous or should be withdrawn and instead further research is needed to establish if there was a difference in the types of people prescribed clarithromycin compared with those receiving other antibiotics.

The study, published online in the British Medical Journal, found there were an extra 37 cardiac deaths per one million courses of clarithromycin compared with penicillin in the Dutch population studied.

The drug is known to extend the electrical activity in the lower sections of the heart which can increase the risk of potentially fatal rhythm disturbances.

British experts said for this reason is it not recommended in people with a known heart rhythm problem.

Lead author of the study Henrik Svanström, a statistician in the Department of Epidemiology Research, at the Statens Serum Institute in Copenhagen, wrote in the journal: "This large cohort study found a significantly increased risk of cardiac death associated with clarithromycin. No increased risk was seen with roxithromycin. Given the widespread use of clarithromycin, these findings call for confirmation in independent populations.

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