Fluoroquinolone Antibiotic Side Effects Addressed at Medical Conference

Published on April 3, 2017 by Sandy Liebhard

A presenter at a recent medical conference reminded doctors to carefully consider the potentially life-changing side effects that may accompany the use of quinolone antibiotics, a class which includes fluoroquinolone drugs like Levaquin, Cipro and Avelox.

“We prescribe a lot [of medications],” said Douglas S. Paauw, MD, MACP. “A big part of our jobs, though, is to know when is it too dangerous to continue a medication, when do we need to reduce the dose, when do we have to get [patients] them off it and a lot of it has to do with interactions and side effects.”

The remarks were delivered earlier this month during a presentation at the American College of Physicians Internal Medicine Meeting in San Diego. According to Healio.com, Dr. Paauw is a professor of medicine in the University of Washington’s general medicine division.

Fluoroquinolone Risks

Fluoroquinolones are among the most widely-used quinolone antibiotics, and have been prescribed to millions of people suffering from pneumonia and other bacterial infections. However, this drug class has been under increasing scrutiny in recent years, as the significant risks associated with their use have become more apparent.

Last year, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration warned against using fluoroquinolone antibiotics to treat certain uncomplicated infections when alternative treatments are available, due to their association with debilitating and possibly permanent complications affecting the tendons, muscles, joints, nerves, and central nervous system. In recent years, the agency has warned that Levaquin and other fluoroquinolones can cause peripheral neuropathy and permanent nerve damage, as well as Achilles tendon ruptures and other serious tendon injuries.

Studies have also suggested that fluoroquinolone antibiotics might be associated with an increased risk of aortic aneurysm and dissection.

“This type of information had a huge impact on the FDA changing the labelling this past summer,” Dr. Paauw noted. “There was enough worry about them, that [quinolones] shouldn’t be used for simple infections where there are other antibiotics that are probably less likely to cause a risk.”

Peripheral Neuropathy Lawsuits

Levaquin, Cipro and Avelox have been cited in more than 700 peripheral neuropathy lawsuits that are currently pending in a multidistrict litigation underway in Minnesota federal court. Plaintiffs involved in this litigation claim that the drugs’ manufacturers have known for years that fluoroquinolones could cause permanent damage to the peripheral nervous system, yet downplayed these complications and failed to issue appropriate warnings to patients and doctors. Plaintiffs further assert that current label warnings regarding peripheral neuropathy remain “inadequate and confusing” and do not accurately describe the true nature of this risk.

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