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There have been reports of hepatic dysfunction, including increased liver enzymes, and hepatocellular and/or cholestatic hepatitis, with or without jaundice, occurring in patients receiving oral erythromycin products.
Erythromycin has been associated with prolongation of the QT interval and infrequent cases of arrhythmia. Cases of torsades de pointes have been spontaneously reported during postmarketing surveillance in patients receiving erythromycin. Fatalities have been reported. Erythromycin should be avoided in patients with known prolongation of 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.
Syphilis in Pregnancy
There have been reports suggesting that erythromycin does not reach the fetus in adequate concentration to prevent congenital syphilis. Infants born to women treated during pregnancy with oral erythromycin for early syphilis should be treated with an appropriate penicillin regimen.
Clostridium difficile Associated Diarrhea
Clostridium difficile associated diarrhea (CDAD) has been reported with use of nearly all antibacterial agents, including PCE tablets, 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.
Serious adverse reactions have been reported in patients taking erythromycin concomitantly with CYP3A4 substrates. These include colchicine toxicity with colchicine; rhabdomyolysis with simvastatin, lovastatin, and atorvastatin; and hypotension with calcium channel blockers metabolized by CYP3A4 (e.g., verapamil, amlodipine, diltiazem) (see PRECAUTIONS: DRUG INTERACTIONS).
There have been post-marketing reports of colchicine toxicity with concomitant use of erythromycin and colchicine. This interaction is potentially life-threatening, and may occur while using both drugs at their recommended doses (see PRECAUTIONS: DRUG INTERACTIONS).
Rhabdomyolysis with or without renal impairment has been reported in seriously ill patients receiving erythromycin concomitantly with lovastatin. Therefore, patients receiving concomitant lovastatin and erythromycin should be carefully monitored for creatine kinase (CK) and serum transaminase levels. (See package insert for lovastatin.)
Prescribing PCE tablets in the absence of a proven or strongly suspected bacterial infection or a prophylactic indication is unlikely to provide benefit to the patient and increases the risk of the development of drug-resistant bacteria.
Since erythromycin is principally excreted by the liver, caution should be exercised when erythromycin is administered to patients with impaired hepatic function. (See CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY and WARNINGS.)
There have been reports of infantile hypertrophic pyloric stenosis (IHPS) occurring in infants following erythromycin therapy. In one cohort of 157 newborns who were given erythromycin for pertussis prophylaxis, seven neonates (5%) developed symptoms of non-bilious vomiting or irritability with feeding and were subsequently diagnosed as having IHPS requiring surgical pyloromyotomy. A possible dose-response effect was described with an absolute risk of IHPS of 5.1% for infants who took erythromycin for 8-14 days and 10% for infants who took erythromycin for 15-21 days.5 Since erythromycin may be used in the treatment of conditions in infants which are associated with significant mortality or morbidity (such as pertussis or neonatal Chlamydia trachomatis infections), the benefit of erythromycin therapy needs to be weighed against the potential risk of developing IHPS. Parents should be informed to contact their physician if vomiting or irritability with feeding occurs.
Prolonged or repeated use of erythromycin may result in an overgrowth of nonsusceptible bacteria or fungi. If superinfection occurs, erythromycin should be discontinued and appropriate therapy instituted.
When indicated, incision and drainage or other surgical procedures should be performed in conjunction with antibiotic therapy.
Observational studies in humans have reported cardiovascular malformations after exposure to drug products containing erythromycin during early pregnancy.
Carcinogenesis, Mutagenesis, Impairment of Fertility
Long-term oral dietary studies conducted with erythromycin stearate in rats up to 400 mg/kg/day and in mice up to about 500 mg/kg/day (approximately 1-2 fold of the maximum human dose on a body surface area basis) did not provide evidence of tumorigenicity. Erythromycin stearate did not show genotoxic potential in the Ames, and mouse lymphoma assays or induce chromosomal aberrations in CHO cells. There was no apparent effect on male or female fertility in rats treated with erythromycin base by oral gavage at 700 mg/kg/day (approximately 3 times the maximum human dose on a body surface area basis).
Pregnancy Category B: There is no evidence of teratogenicity or any other adverse effect on reproduction in female rats fed erythromycin base by oral gavage at 350 mg/kg/day (approximately twice the maximum recommended human dose on a body surface area) prior to and during mating, during gestation, and through weaning. No evidence of teratogenicity or embryotoxicity was observed when erythromycin base was given by oral gavage to pregnant rats and mice at 700 mg/kg/day and to pregnant rabbits at 125 mg/kg/day (approximately 1-3 times the maximum recommended human dose).
Labor and Delivery
The effect of erythromycin on labor and delivery is unknown.
Erythromycin is excreted in human milk. Caution should be exercised when erythromycin is administered to a nursing woman.
Elderly patients, particularly those with reduced renal or hepatic function, may be at increased risk for developing erythromycin-induced hearing loss. (See ADVERSE REACTIONS and DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION).
Elderly patients may be more susceptible to development of torsades de pointes arrhythmias than younger patients. (See WARNINGS).
PCE 333 MG Tablets contain 0.5 mg (0.02 mEq) of sodium per individual dose.
PCE 500 MG Tablets do not contain sodium.
5. Honein, M.A., et. al.: Infantile hypertrophic pyloric stenosis after pertussis prophylaxis with erythromycin: a case review and cohort study. The Lancet 1999; 354 (9196):2101-5.
Last reviewed on RxList: 2/24/2012
This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.
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