PITTSBURGH (CBS) — New research finds the antibiotic clarithromycin is associated with an increased risk of heart deaths.

The Danish study looked at 5 million cases, adults ages 40 to 74, and found clarithromycin was linked to an increased risk of cardiac death by 76 percent compared to a type of penicillin.

“For every million courses of clarithromycin, there were 37 additional cardiac deaths,” says Vanderbilt University health policy professor Dr. Wayne Ray.

Clarithromycin is used to treat common bacterial infections. It belongs to a group of antibiotics that can interfere with electrical activity of the heart muscle.

“Patients with heart problems are the ones who should be most aware of the adverse effect and for these patients it will become more important in deciding which antibiotic to use,” he said.

Researchers stress the absolute risk is small and say doctors should not change the way they prescribe the antibiotic until their findings are confirmed.

The FDA warned patients last year about another common antibiotic, azithromycin, saying it could contribute to a deadly irregular heartbeat, especially in patients with heart problems.

All antibiotics have risks and benefits.

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