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Zithromax Side Effects Include Serious, Often Fatal Liver Failure

Oct 22, 2007 | Parker Waichman LLP Zithromax, a popular antibiotic, has been linked to serious, and sometimes fatal, cases of liver damage.  Yet despite the fact that Pfizer, the manufacturer of the drug, knew of the Zithromax liver failure problems as early as 1996, it waited more than 4 years to warn the public of this dangerous side effect.

Since it was first approved in 1992, Zithromax has become a popular antibiotic, especially for treating ailments like ear infections in children.  That is because Zithromax can deliver continual levels of the antibiotic to infected areas.   This means patients can take just one pill a day for as few as 3 days, rather than the 10 day, 3-pill-a-day regimen common with most other oral antibiotics.  But because Zithromax is so potent, and because it is eliminated from the body mostly through the liver, it has the potential to cause serious liver damage.

Physicians first started reporting incidents of Zithromax liver failure in 1996, one year after it was approved for use in children.  These problems were often very serious and sometimes fatal, and occurred after just one 3-day course of Zithromax treatment.  But despite the severity of this side effect, Pfizer took no action to warn either the public or health care providers about the Zithromax liver failure connection.  It wasn’t until Pfizer was pushed by the FDA in 2000 that the company acknowledged that Zithromax had been tied to liver damage.  Finally, in 2001, the Zithromax label was modified to include warnings about abnormal liver function, jaundice, necrosis, hepatic failure and death associated with its use.

But despite its dangerous side-effects, Zithromax is still a popular antibiotic.   According to Pfizer, Zithromax is the top-selling antibiotic in its class, and the second most popular antibiotic in the world.   Unfortunately, Zithromax liver failure is very serious.  It cannot be cured, although the symptoms can be managed if patients stop taking Zithromax soon enough.  In extreme cases, patients often require a liver transplant.

Because it is so serious, anyone taking Zithromax needs to be aware of the symptoms of liver failure.   These include jaundice, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, fever, severe fatigue, dark urine and elevated liver enzyme levels.  Anyone prescribed Zithromax who experiences any of these symptoms should stop using it and call their doctor immediately.

Zithromax liver failure is only one of the serious side effects tied to this defective drug. In September 2006, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that Zithromax might quadruple the risk of being re-infected with a potentially blinding eye infection called trachoma that the drug is intended to treat.  An earlier 2005 study also found that when Zithromax was used to treat the sexually transmitted disease Chlamydia, patients later had high susceptibility to re-infection.  Zithromax has also been linked to serious skin diseases, a violent and often fatal allergic reaction called anaphylaxis and angioedema, a swelling of the face and neck that can impair breathing.

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