Recently a 21- member panel for the Food and Administration met to discuss the overprescribing of a specific class of antibiotics called fluroquinolones. More than 30 people came forward during the open public hearing about the severe, life-altering side effects they have experienced from taking these antibiotics in potentially unnecessary situations. As a result, the FDA has decided to strengthen label warnings and clarify when the drugs should and should not be used.
Fluroquinolones are strong antibiotics that are essential for treating serious infections such as anthrax. However, they are often overprescribed for common infections that could be treated with lesser yet still effective medications. Bacterial sinus infections, urinary tract infections, and some forms of bronchitis are often treated with fluroquinilones, but the benefits are outweighed by the risk of rare but serious side effects such as irregular heartbeat, depression, nerve damage, ruptured tendons, and seizures. Currently these three illnesses account for nearly one-third of the fluroquinolones prescribed outside of hospitals. Ciprofloxacin (Cipro), levofloxacin (Levaquin), moxifloxacin (Avelox), ofloxacin (Floxin), and gemifloxacin (Factive) have all been approved in the last 30 years to treat these common infections.
Much of the information for the risks of taking fluroquinolones for common infections has come as a result of the drugs being used by millions of patients. Still many doctors continue to prescribe them. This is likely because these powerful antibiotics work against a wide variety of bacteria. It is now recommended that fluroquinolones only be prescribed after treatment with milder antibiotics has failed.
The vast majority of sinus infections are the result of a virus, not a bacteria, and antibiotics are not effective in the treatment of viruses. Even when bacteria is responsible for the sinus infection, it will typically resolve on its own. A milder antibiotic such as amoxicillin should be used in cases where the infection lasts longer than a week. In the case of urinary tract infections, fluroquinilones should only be used when the infection has already shown to be resistant to other antibiotics or has spread to the kidneys. As with sinus infections, most cases of bronchitis, or chest colds, are caused by a virus and are not helped by taking an antibiotic. The only exception is in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). These patients may benefit from taking antibiotics when their symptoms have become severe enough to require hospitalization.
All antibiotics have risks and should be taken cautiously. When the drug is unwarranted, prescribing it has no benefit and exposes patients to needless risk.
Tad Thomas was recently appointed to the Plaintiff’s Steering Committee which is responsible for leading the litigation on behalf of victims of Levaquin, Avelox and Cipro. If you are interested in learning more about the overprescribing of antibiotics and the responsibility of the FDA to issue proper warnings for taking these drugs, contact Thomas Law Offices for more information.