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Zmax (Azithromycin) - Warnings and Precautions



Allergic and skin reactions

Serious allergic reactions, including angioedema, anaphylaxis, Stevens Johnson syndrome and toxic epidermal necrolysis have been reported rarely in patients on azithromycin therapy using other formulations. Although rare, fatalities have been reported. Despite initially successful symptomatic treatment of the allergic symptoms, when symptomatic therapy was discontinued, the allergic symptoms recurred soon thereafter in some patients without further azithromycin exposure. These patients required prolonged periods of observation and symptomatic treatment. The relationship of these episodes to the long tissue half-life of azithromycin and subsequent exposure to antigen has not been determined.

If an allergic reaction occurs, appropriate therapy should be instituted. Physicians should be aware that reappearance of the allergic symptoms may occur when symptomatic therapy is discontinued.


Abnormal liver function, hepatitis, cholestatic jaundice, hepatic necrosis, and hepatic failure have been reported, some of which have resulted in death. Discontinue azithromycin immediately if signs and symptoms of hepatitis occur.

Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea

Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea (CDAD) has been reported with use of nearly all antibacterial agents, including Zmax, and may range in severity from mild diarrhea to fatal colitis. Treatment with antibacterial agents alters the normal flora of the colon leading to overgrowth of C. difficile.

C. difficile produces toxins A and B which contribute to the development of CDAD. Hypertoxin producing strains of C. difficile cause increased morbidity and mortality, as these infections can be refractory to antimicrobial therapy and may require colectomy. CDAD must be considered in all patients who present with diarrhea following antibiotic use. Careful medical history is necessary since CDAD has been reported to occur over two months after the administration of antibacterial agents.

If CDAD is suspected or confirmed, ongoing antibiotic use not directed against C. difficile may need to be discontinued. Appropriate fluid and electrolyte management, protein supplementation, antibiotic treatment of C. difficile, and surgical evaluation should be instituted as clinically indicated.

Exacerbation of myasthenia gravis

Exacerbation of symptoms of myasthenia gravis and new onset of myasthenic syndrome have been reported in patients receiving azithromycin therapy.

QT Prolongation

Prolonged cardiac repolarization and QT interval, imparting a risk of developing cardiac arrhythmia and torsades de pointes, have been seen in treatment with macrolides, including azithromycin. Cases of torsades de pointes have been spontaneously reported during postmarketing surveillance in patients receiving azithromycin. Providers should consider the risk of QT prolongation which can be fatal when weighing the risks and benefits of azithromycin for at-risk groups including:

  • patients with known prolongation of the QT interval, a history of torsades de pointes, congenital long QT syndrome, bradyarrhythmias or uncompensated heart failure
  • patients on drugs known to prolong the QT interval
  • patients with ongoing proarrhythmic conditions such as uncorrected hypokalemia or hypomagnesemia, clinically significant bradycardia, and in patients receiving Class IA (quinidine, procainamide) or Class III (dofetilide, amiodarone, sotalol) antiarrhythmic agents.

Elderly patients may be more susceptible to drug-associated effects on the QT interval.

Gastrointestinal Disturbances

A higher incidence of gastrointestinal adverse events (8 of 19 subjects) was observed when Zmax was administered to a limited number of subjects with GFR< 10 mL/min [See USE IN SPECIFIC POPULATIONS]

Development of drug resistant bacteria

Prescribing Zmax in the absence of a proven or strongly suspected bacterial infection is unlikely to provide benefit to the patient and increases the risk of the development of drug-resistant bacteria.



Teratogenic Effects. Pregnancy Category B: Reproduction studies have been performed in rats and mice at doses up to moderately maternally toxic dose concentrations (i.e., 200 mg/kg/day). These daily doses in rats and mice, based on mg/m2, are estimated to be approximately equivalent to one or one-half of, respectively, the single adult oral dose of 2 g. In the animal studies, no evidence of harm to the fetus due to azithromycin was found. There are, however, no adequate and well-controlled studies in pregnant women. Because animal reproduction studies are not always predictive of human response, azithromycin should be used during pregnancy only if clearly needed.

Nursing Mothers

It is not known whether azithromycin is excreted in human milk. Because many drugs are excreted in human milk, caution should be exercised when azithromycin is administered to a nursing woman.

Pediatric Use

Safety and effectiveness in the treatment of pediatric patients under 6 months of age have not been established.

Community-Acquired Pneumonia: The safety and effectiveness of Zmax have been established in pediatric patients 6 months of age or older with community-acquired pneumonia due to Chlamydophila pneumoniae, Mycoplasma pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae or Streptococcus pneumoniae. Use of Zmax for these patients is supported by evidence from adequate and well-controlled studies of Zmax in adults with additional safety and pharmacokinetic data in pediatric patients. [See DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION, ADVERSE REACTIONS (6), CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY ]

Acute bacterial sinusitis: Safety and effectiveness in the treatment of pediatric patients with acute bacterial sinusitis have not been established.

Geriatric Use

Data collected from the azithromycin capsule and tablet formulations indicate that a dosage adjustment does not appear to be necessary for older patients with normal renal function (for their age) and hepatic function receiving treatment with Zmax.

In clinical trials of Zmax, 17% of subjects were at least 65 years of age (214/1292) and 5% of subjects (59/1292) were at least 75 years of age. No overall differences in safety or effectiveness were observed between these subjects and younger subjects. Elderly patients may be more susceptible to development of torsades de pointes arrhythmia than younger patients. [See WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].

Renal Impairment

No dosage adjustment is recommended for patients GFR >10 mL/min. Caution should be exercised when Zmax is administered to patients with GFR <10 mL/min, due to a higher incidence of gastrointestinal adverse events (8 of 19 subjects) observed in a limited number of subjects with GFR <10 mL/min. [See CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY]


The impact of gender on the pharmacokinetics of azithromycin has not been evaluated for Zmax. However, previous studies have demonstrated no significant differences in the disposition of azithromycin between male and female subjects. No dosage adjustment of Zmax is recommended based on gender.

Page last updated: 2013-10-01

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