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Am J Epidemiol. 2018 Apr 1;187(4):777-785. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwx359.

Long-Term Risk of Cardiovascular Death With Use of Clarithromycin and Roxithromycin: A Nationwide Cohort Study.

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Department of Epidemiology Research, Division of Health Surveillance and Research, Statens Serum Institut, Copenhagen, Denmark.
Division of Infection Medicine, Skåne University Hospital and Department of Clinical Sciences Lund, Lund University, Lund, Sweden.
Clinical Epidemiology Unit, Department of Medicine Solna, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.
Department of Medicine, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California.


Recent studies have raised concern that macrolide antibiotics may be associated with an increased long-term risk of cardiovascular death. We examined the 1-year risk associated with treatment with clarithromycin (n = 187,887) or roxithromycin (n = 698,899) compared with penicillin V (n = 3,473,081), matched 1:4 on propensity score, in a nationwide, registry-based cohort study in Danish outpatients, 1997-2011. Among clarithromycin courses, the rate ratio for cardiovascular death was 1.24 (95% confidence interval (CI): 0.96, 1.59). Among roxithromycin courses, the rate ratio was 0.99 (95% CI: 0.86, 1.16). In analyses by time after treatment start, the rate ratio associated with clarithromycin was 1.66 (95% CI: 0.98, 2.79) during days 0-7. This was attenuated in later time periods (days 8-89, rate ratio = 1.30, 95% CI: 0.88, 1.94; and days 90-364, rate ratio = 0.96, 95% CI: 0.63, 1.47). For roxithromycin, the rate ratios were 0.88 (95% CI: 0.59, 1.32) during days 0-7, 1.17 (95% CI: 0.92, 1.48) during days 8-89, and 0.88 (95% CI: 0.70, 1.10) during days 90-364. We found no increased risk of cardiovascular death in a general outpatient population. With clarithromycin, we observed a transient increased risk during days 0-7 after treatment start, which corresponds to the period of active treatment. This association was absent in later time periods, which is consistent with no long-term toxicity resulting in cardiovascular death.


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