Generically known as Azithromycin, Zithromax is prescribed to treat bacterial infections such as respiratory infections, skin infections, ear infections and sexually transmitted diseases. It is classified as a macrolide antibiotic. This drug has been on the market since the 1980 and had $464 million in sales in 2011. Zithromax is the most widely prescribed drug on the US market.

A recent study has linked Zithromax with serious side effects. Researchers found that Zithromax may increase the risk of cardiovascular events and death in patients who have preexisting heart problems. Heart issues that may be caused by Zithromax include QT interval prolongation and Torsades de Pointes. In one study, it was found that 47 more people died for every million patients who took Zithromax instead of another popular antibiotic, Amoxicillin.

Zithromax has also been linked to liver damage. Because an antibiotic of this class is eliminated from the body through the liver, Zithromax can put a large amount of stress on that organ. Many of the reports of Zithromax liver damage were severe of life-threatening.

Zithromax has also been associated with an eye infection called Trachoma that could potentially be blinding. Ironically, Zithromax has been prescribed for this very infection that it is thought to cause. It is estimated that approximately 80 million people have been prescribed Zithromax, while researchers have seen nearly 8 million patients be blinded or lose some vision after using the antibiotic.

Serious side effect may include:

  • Diarrhea that is watery or bloody
  • Headache with chest pain and severe dizziness, fainting, fast or pounding heartbeats
  • Nausea, upper stomach pain, itching, loss of appetite, dark urine, clay-colored stools, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes)
  • Severe skin reaction — fever, sore throat, swelling in your face or tongue, burning in your eyes, skin pain, followed by a red or purple skin rash that spreads (especially in the face or upper body) and causes blistering and peeling

Less serious Zithromax side effects may include:

  • Mild diarrhea, vomiting, constipation
  • Stomach pain or upset
  • Dizziness, tired feeling, mild headache
  • Nervous feeling, sleep problems (insomnia)
  • Vaginal itching or discharge
  • Mild rash or itching
  • Ringing in your ears, problems with hearing
  • Decreased sense of taste or smell
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