An antibiotic taken by millions of patients has been linked to heart deaths prompting researchers to call for an ‘urgent’ evaluation.

A Dutch study found that people taking clarithromycin were 76 per cent more likely to die than those taking penicillin and the risk was greater in women who were more than twice as likely to die.

Clarithromycin is used for respiratory infections and 2.2m doses were prescribed in 2013 in England.

Experts said the findings do not prove that the drug is dangerous or should be withdrawn and instead further research is needed to establish if there was a difference in the types of people prescribed clarithromycin compared with those receiving other antibiotics.

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