The Supreme Council of Health (SCH) has warned against the use of azithromycin, one of the world’s bestselling antibiotics, without a prescription or guidance of a doctor due to its potentially harmful side effects.
The SCH has also asked doctors and other health workers to take the side effects and risk factors into consideration while prescribing the medicine to patients.
Azithromycin is used to treat or prevent certain bacterial infections, such as middle ear infections, strep throat, pneumonia, typhoid, bronchitis and sinusitis.
It is widely prescribed for infants and those with weak immune systems. The medicine is available under various product names such as Zimax, Azalid, Zithromax, Azi-once, Azomycin, Zocin, Zetrocin, Mazit and Zomax.
The SCH warning applies to the medicine in its various forms and is based on a health alert issued by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently.
FDA had warned that azithromycin can cause abnormal changes in the electrical activity of the heart that may lead to a potentially fatal irregular heart rhythm.
Patients at particular risk of developing this condition include those with known risk factors such as existing QT interval prolongation, low blood levels of potassium or magnesium, a slower than normal heart rate, or intake of certain drugs used to treat abnormal heart rhythm, or arrhythmia.
FDA had said that the warning was based on a study by medical researchers and another study by a manufacturer of the drug that assessed the potential for azithromycin to cause abnormal changes in the electrical activity of the heart.
Enquiries with pharmacists here yesterday revealed that the antibiotic in its various product names is widely sold in Qatar and is commonly prescribed by doctors, especially for children.
“Azithromycin, like other antibiotics, can be sold in Qatar only with a prescription. It is one of the bestselling antibiotics in the country and is widely prescribed for children because it is highly effective in treating infections in the upper respiratory track,” said a pharmacist. He said since the medicine is not available here without a prescription, the SCH warning might be targeting mainly doctors to make them aware of its potential side effects.
According to a private physician, the medical community in Qatar in general is not aware of the recent FDA warning and the antibiotic is still being prescribed here without the required caution.
Source : Qatar Chronicle
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