Inappropriate Antibiotics and the Fluoroquinolone Problem

Inappropriate Antibiotics and the Fluoroquinolone Problem

The fluoroquinolone problem is a familiar story in the US pharmaceutical sector; a product so effective that it becomes prescribed across the board.

Fluoroquinolone antibiotics like Levaquin, Avelox, and Cipro are broad spectrum, which means they’re more effective against infections that can be resistant to other forms of antibiotics. That means they have a wide range of applications and, as a result, fluoroquinolones have become the most prescribed form of antibiotics in the United States.

In fact, some 26 million Americans – or around 1 in 12 of us – will take this course of medication in a typical year. Put simply, that’s too many prescriptions for a medication that, while successful, has some undeniably serious side effects.

This is backed up by a series of studies citing the risks of fluoroquinolones as a first-line defense against infection. Over the last two years, respected resources like the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the British Medical Journal (BMJ), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) have published research that links the use of fluoroquinolone antibiotics to issues ranging from collagen degradation to aortic aneurysms, which weaken the body’s main artery to the heart.

Earlier this year, the mounting evidence defining the fluoroquinolone problem prompted the FDA to issue updated safety advice about the medication. In its update the FDA concluded the following:

Serious side effects associated with fluoroquinolone antibacterial drugs generally outweigh the benefits for patients with acute sinusitis, acute bronchitis, and uncomplicated urinary tract infections. For patients with these conditions, fluoroquinolones should be reserved for those who do not have alternative treatment options.

While no-one is discounting the obvious benefit of fluoroquinolones for treating severe conditions, their use for less pressing medical issues has reached a tipping point. The potential negatives now clearly outweigh the positives for patients in the latter category.

The fluoroquinolone problem embodies an important concept for any patient-doctor relationship: trust your medical professional but be ready and willing to ask questions.

Always ask about the side effects of any prescribed treatment and be sure you understand the signs that should prompt you to seek further medical help. n the case of fluoroquinolones, like too many other drugs and medical devices, the shortcomings were identified after the boom in prescriptions.

Unfortunately in the case of fluoroquinolones, as with all too many other drugs and medical devices, the shortcomings were identified after the boom in prescriptions. It will now take a pushback by patients and GP’s alike to ensure that this attractive form of treatment is reined in, only to be used in cases where the benefits clearly outweigh the risk of serious side-effects.


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