Aneurysm, neuropathy, tendon degradation, black box warning – not the kind of resume you want in a pill you’re about to pop. But the class of antibiotics known as fluoroquinolones brings all that to the table and more. So let’s look at fluoroquinolone risk, with a special emphasis on heart health.
What Are the Fluoroquinolones?
Well, they’re quinolones plus fluoride. Clear as a coal mine, to most of us non-chemistry non-professors. There are apparently a lot of them. The most famous fluoroquinolone antibiotics are:
- Cipro (ciprofloxacin)
- Levaquin (levofloxacin)
- Avelox (moxifloxacin)
- Factive (gemifloxacin)
- Floxin (ofloxacin)
- Noroxin (norfloxacin)
What’s the Problem?
They have some potentially serious side effects. These side effects are rare, which is probably why they’re allowed to remain on the market.
The FDA mandated the black box warning of fluoroquinolone risk:
- In 2008 to warn doctors and patients of the risk of tendon rupture and tendinitis.
- In 2013 to warn of peripheral neuropathy (nerve pain). This is generally permanent.
- In 2016 to warn against using the drugs for sinusitis, bronchitis, and urinary tract infections if there were other options. Antibiotics are commonly prescribed for these three conditions. But generally, they aren’t considered serious enough to risk the side effects.
Damage to the aorta hasn’t been added to the black box warning label – yet.
The aorta is the body’s main artery. It’s attached to the heart, and it’s crucial to human life. Past research established a link between fluoroquinolones and aortic damage, possibly due to the effect of fluoroquinolones on collagen. More recent research out of Sweden has provided strong support for that link. It found that fluoroquinolone antibiotics were associated with a 66% increase in aortic damage.
It’s still very rare, but it’s a devastating side effect.
If you experience side effects from these or any medications, you can call 800-332-1088. You can also report your experiences to the FDA’s MedWatch Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting Program. But if you’re on these medications, there are two things you can do:
- Bring this information to the attention of your doctor. Your doctor is probably already aware of it, but just in case.
- Remember that the actual chances of suffering these side effects are very low. The fluoroquinolone risk is frightening, but side effects are very unlikely.