What Is Telithromycin?

L. Whitaker

Telithromycin is a type of ketolide antiobiotic used primarily for the treatment of a bacterial respiration infection known as community-acquired pneumonia (CAP). It is a derivative of erythromycin that inhibits bacterial growth. This drug, which is sold under the brand name Ketek®, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in April 2004. Its warning label was amended in 2007 to address concerns about potentially fatal respiratory complications in individuals with myasthenia gravis. Telithromycin is approved for use only in adult patients and is not for pediatric use.

Telithromycin has a number of known drug interactions with other medications.
Telithromycin has a number of known drug interactions with other medications.

This medication is prescribed for mild to moderate cases of CAP contracted via certain bacteria, including Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, Moraxella catarrhalis, Chlamydophila pneumoniae, and Mycoplasma pneumoniae. CAP is a serious lung infection that should be treated immediately. Its symptoms range from chest discomfort or pain to fever, phlegmy cough, or difficulty breathing.

In 2006, two years after this drug's approval by the FDA, a controversy arose regarding the safety of telithromycin. It was noted that several cases of myasthenia gravis were made dangerously worse when the individuals took telithromycin. In addition, one researcher was imprisoned after being convicted of falsifying data in the drug's clinical trials to hide evidence of serious liver damage in some individuals. The following year, the FDA revised the warning label for telithromycin to indicate that it should not be used by myasthenia gravis patients and can potentially lead to liver problems or hepatitis. Individuals using telithromycin should discontinue use and consult their physicians at the first sign of potential symptoms of hepatitis, such as anorexia, jaundice, liver tenderness, fatigue, or malaise.

Individuals who take this medication should be aware that it can be dangerous or fatal to anyone who is sensitive to certain other antibiotics, including erythromycin (brand name E-Mycin® or Erythocin®), clarithromycin (brand name Biaxin®), and azithromycin (brand name Zithromax®). This drug is also known to have potential interactions with a variety of other medications, such as blood thinners, antifungals, cholesterol drugs, or diuretics. Driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of telithromycin might be dangerous because of the likelihood of symptoms such as dizziness or sudden changes in vision.

Changes in vision or headaches can sometimes occur with the use of this drug. Occasionally, individuals taking this medication could experience rash or heart palpitations. More common side effects include gastrointestinal changes, nausea, and vomiting. Some side effects could happen up to several weeks after an individual uses this drug.

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