TODAY   |  March 13, 2013

FDA issues warning about Z-Pak, heart problems

50 million people take the antibiotic Zithromax, known as Z-Pak, every year, but on Tuesday the FDA warned it could be dangerous for some people and urged everyone to understand the risks. Cardiologist Dr. Nieca Goldberg explains the warning.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> we have an important health alert this morning tied to the commonly prescribed antibiotic known as the z-pack. 50 million people take it every year. now the fda warns it may lead to a fatal irregular heart rhythm in some patients. dr. goldberg is a cardiologist from the women's heart program at nyu. dr. goldberg, nice to see you.

>> good morning.

>> the headline is --

>> zithromax could cause fatal heart rhythms but more commonly in people with existing heart disease . it's pretty small in healthy people but makes us think twice about calling the doctor for the z-pack.

>> in 2012 there were first warnings issued about this. why is the fda acting in this way at this time?

>> it was a research study in the new england journal of medicine. a panel had to investigate if it was a real b problem. it alerts doctors and patients that there is a potential problem.

>> if you have issues with irregular heartbeat , low potassium levels, low mag menesium levels should you not get a z-pack?

>> talk to your doctor about it. there are ways we can determine if you are predisposed to fatal heart rhythms be w a baseline electrocardiogram in the office.

>> what is the alternative for those people if they have pre-existing conditions?

>> there are lots of alternatives. we have amoxicillin and other penicillin-like drugs. so people won't be without antibiotics but they have to discuss the riskins and benefits of any drug with their doctor.

>> it does point to the fact that in in country as a society we use a lot of antibiotics.

>> that's right. sometimes they are overused. many times they are given for viral infections . azithromax doesn't work on viral infections . we have to refocus and make sure people are getting the antibiotics they need safely and for the appropriate infection.

>> thanks for the information. appreciate it.