Health Warnings About Flouroquinolone Antibiotics-Mostly Truth!

Health Warnings About Flouroquinolone Antibiotics-Mostly Truth!

Summary of eRumor:
A viral blog post titled “This Antibiotic Will Ruin You” warns about the long-term health dangers of flouroquinolones antibiotics that go by common names like Cipro, Levaquin, Avalox, and generics that end in “oxacin,””ox” or “quin”
The Truth:
Health warnings about the dangers of flouroquinolone antibiotics that went viral in March 2017 are based on credible scientific studies — but there’s disagreement among researchers about how much risk flouroquinolones poses to normal people.
Warnings about flouroquinolones went viral in March 2017 after a post appeared at the WordPress blogs site Mountains and Mustard Seeds under the headline, “This Antibiotic Will Ruin You.” No author is listed for the blog. The site publishes post on a range of topics, mostly centered on faith and spirituality.
The author of the post writes that she was given flouroquinolones antibiotics to treat a urinary tract infection in 2010. In the years that followed, the author detailed a lengthy list of medical conditions that apparently resulted from her exposure to flouroquinolones:

In 2010, I took Cipro for a UTI and it changed my life forever. A round of antibiotics literally changed the path I was walking, into a path that I couldn’t even crawl on. Multiple spontaneous tendon and ligament ruptures, spinal degeneration, and arthritis that is widespread. We are talking multiple joint dislocations and surgeries to most of my large joints and spine. Twenty surgeries in the last 7 years if you wanna count. I said T W E N T Y.

Given that the author of the post isn’t identified, we can’t verify her personal experiences with flouroquinolones. And, while their are credible health advisories related to the antibiotic’s use, it’s safe to say that the author’s experience with flouroquinolones was far from normal.

Flouroquinolones have been in widespread clinical use since 1989. These antibiotics work by preventing bacteria DNA from uncoiling, which is required for bacteria to replicate in the body. Today,  flouroquinolones are broken down into two classes: an older group, ciprofloxacin, and a new group, Gemiflocin. There are a range of uses for these antibiotics, the American Family Physician reports:

Clinical applications beyond genitourinary tract infections include upper and lower respiratory infections, gastrointestinal infections, gynecologic infections, sexually transmitted diseases, and some skin and soft tissue infections. 

In August 2015, the FDA advised medical providers to restrict flouroquinolone antibiotic use for certain uncomplicated infections in light of “disabling side effects” that can co-occur in patients:

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is advising that the serious side effects associated with fluoroquinolone antibacterial drugs generally outweigh the benefits for patients with acute sinusitis, acute bronchitis, and uncomplicated urinary tract infections who have other treatment options. For patients with these conditions, fluoroquinolones should be reserved for those who do not have alternative treatment options.

An FDA safety review has shown that fluoroquinolones when used systemically (i.e. tablets, capsules, and injectable) are associated with disabling and potentially permanent serious side effects that can occur together. These side effects can involve the tendons, muscles, joints, nerves, and central nervous system.

The FDA has warned about increased risk of tendon rupture after fluoroquinolones use since 2008. A 2010 study found that “there is enough data to suggest that fluoroquinolones (FQs )should be used cautiously” in patients who could be more susceptible to tendon rupture and tendinitis: those older than 60, those receiving corticosteroid therapy, and those with renal failure, diabetes, mellitus or a history of musculoskeletal disorders.

Patients greater than 60 years of age who were recently treated with a FQ for 1 to 30 days were at a 1.5-fold and a 2.7-fold greater risk for development of tendon disorders and tendon rupture as compared to patients less than 60 years of age, respectively.Some authors have recommended that patients with a history of Achilles tendinitis and advanced age should not be prescribed FQ antibiotics. Although the prevalence of FQ-induced tendon injury is low in the general population (0.14–0.4%), the risk of tendinitis/tendon rupture is substantially increased in patients with chronic renal failure, hemodialysis, and systemic corticosteroid therapy.

So, it’s true that tendon problems have been found in people with certain pre-existing conditions, the data does not point to an increased risk to those who didn’t meet that criteria.

Perhaps even more alarming, fluoroquinolones have been linked to neurotoxicity and brain disorders. But this isn’t a new development, having been listed as a possible side effect since 2004, Web MD reports:

Peripheral neuropathy is damage to the nerves that send information to and from the brain and spinal cord and the rest of the body. Damage interrupts this connection, and the symptoms depend on which nerves are affected. In general, the symptoms are in the arms and legs and include numbness, tingling, burning, or shooting pain.

Peripheral neuropathy has been listed as a side effect of fluoroquinolones since 2004. There have been reports of long-lasting nerve damage and disability in patients taking this type of medication.

So, in the end, warnings about the side effects of fluoroquinolones — potential for tendon issues, spinal issues, and neurological issues — are accurate. However, the author of the Mountains and Mustard Seed blog post does not describe a typical drug reaction, based on scientific data. Even so, the FDA has modified it’s warnings about fluoroquinolones, and the serious risks cannot be ignored. That’s why we’re reporting this one as “mostly truth.”