Article about quinolone toxicity


Fluoroquinolone antibiotics – A Real Concern.


Quinolones are currently one of the most commonly prescribed classes of antiobiotics. They are very powerful medications used to treat many types of infections such as respiratory infections, urinary tract infections, and sinus infections. The two most commonly prescribed quinolones are Levaquin and Cipro. Like all medications this class of antibiotics has side effects. However, what differentiates this class of antibiotics from others is that quinolones have the ability to cause severe and permanent disability.  Many of these side effects can even occur weeks to months after taking the antibiotic. Approximately half of the quinolones that were once on the market have now been removed from clinical practice due to their severe toxicities. Examples include Tequin, Omniflox, Trovan, and Zagam. 


There is no question that quinolone antibiotics have their usefulness. They are extremely powerful medications that work very well to kill difficult to treat infections. They have proved to be life saving in certain situations. However, they were never meant to be used as a first line of defense against mild infections which is how they are often prescribed today.


In July of 2008, the FDA mandated that all quinolone antibiotics carry a “Black Box “ warning for tendon rupture and tendonitis. This is the strongest warning label a drug can have before it is removed from the market. Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group, sued the FDA demanding quinolones carry a Black Box warning. The FDA gets approximately 50% of their funding for the review of drugs directly from the pharmaceutical companies in what is called prescription drug user fees. This is a conflict of interest that has made the FDA very slow and often reluctant to react to drug toxicities of all kinds. 


Unfortunately, the Black Box warning is far too late for the many people that are now living with devastating disabilities. Lariam, a quinolone derivative, that is used strictly for malaria prevention has been widely prescribed to US troops since the 1990’s. An award winning documentary titled “Taken as Directed“  details the extensive physical and neurological damage caused by Lariam. 60 Minutes and Consumer Reports magazine also did a story on Lariam toxicity. Some of the many websites that describe the severe adverse reactions to quinolones include:,,,  and  


Dr. Jay Cohen, a medical researcher and associate professor at the University of California, San Diego published a paper on severe peripheral neuropathy caused by quinolones. Dr. Cohen mentions that these debilitating reactions are not rare. He mentions that most doctors have dismissed patient complaints or outright deny that quinolones can cause this type of long term damage even though it is mentioned in the package insert. Even if one person in 100 suffers a grave side effect that can still mean millions of people affected. Even the FDA admits that less than 5 % of all adverse drug reactions ever get reported to their agency.


David Flockhart, professor of medicine and chief of clinical pharmacology at Indiana University School of Medicine, says as many as a third of patients taking a quinolone will experience some sort of psychiatric side effect, such as anxiety, personality change, or confusion. “ The psychiatric effects of the quinolones are underappreciated by the medical profession as well as by the public,” says Dr. Flockhart, who has treated more than one hundred patients with severe psychiatric side effects.


Before anyone takes this class of antibiotics they should have the right to know that it can cause irreversible damage. People need to be afforded the right of informed consent. The prescribing literature patients receive at the pharmacy is far different than what is in the tiny print in the package insert. Why am I writing an article on quinolone antibiotics? I feel that I have a moral obligation to warn as many people as possible. I was a pharmaceutical sales representative who was in great health and led a very clean life. I worked hard to obtain a master’s degree and I loved my job. Over five years ago I was prescribed  Levaquin for a possible infection. And like many others, my life has been forever changed. I write this article in the hopes of preventing others from suffering a similar fate. – Levaquin



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