Shades of Grey – The Good and Bad of Fluoroquinolones

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Lisa Bloomquist flouroquinolone antibiotics
A friend of mine recently commented on one of my posts about fluoroquinolone toxicity, “I totally appreciate these articles and my heart goes out to those suffering, but are there people who have benefited from these antibiotics? I’m not trying to stir the pot, I’m curious as I would think many readers would be.”

I really appreciate the inquiry, and I’m sure he’s right in thinking that many people have the same question. Here is my response:

Yes – absolutely – lives have been saved by fluoroquinolone antibiotics (Cipro/ciprofloxacin, Levaquin/levofloxacin, Avelox/moxifloxacin and Floxin/ofloxacin). They are powerful, broad-spectrum antibiotics and, as such, they have saved the lives of people who are suffering from severe, life-threatening infections.

Unfortunately, fluoroquinolones come with severe side-effects that include cellular damage. They have been shown to deplete mitochondrial DNA and induce large amounts of oxidative stress (also known as reactive oxygen species or ROS). Both mitochondrial damage and oxidative stress have been linked to many chronic, multi-symptom diseases, including chronic fatigue syndrome / M.E., Alzheimer’s, diabetes, Parkinson’s, fibromyalgia, autism, Gulf War Syndrome, and many others. Fluoroquinolone toxicity syndrome is a multi-symptom, chronic illness that is often misdiagnosed as fibromyalgia, CFS/ME, an autoimmune disease, etc. Fluoroquinolones have been shown to cause destruction of tendons, cartilage and muscles, as well as permanent peripheral neuropathy and severe central nervous system reactions.

Fluoroquinolones are being used Inappropriately

Because of the severity of the side-effects of fluoroquinolones, it is inappropriate for them to be used when other, more benign, antibiotics will effectively fight an infection. They are only appropriate for use in situations where more benign antibiotics have failed, and a person’s life is threatened by an infection.

Unfortunately, many people are given Cipro/ciprofloxacin, Levaquin/levofloxacin, Avelox/moxifloxacin or Floxin/ofloxacin for sinus infections, urinary tract infections, respiratory infections, and prostate infections. Fluoroquinolones are even prescribed when no infection is present for suspected infections (they are often prescribed prophylactically for travelers’ diarrhea).

Think of Fluoroquinolones as Chemo Drugs – They Are

Fluoroquinolone antibiotics should be thought of as anti-cancer chemo drugs. In fact, they have been investigated for their cancer-fighting / tumor killing properties. Chemo drugs can save lives – there is no doubt about that. But, because of the harm that the drugs themselves do, it is not appropriate to give them to people unless they have cancer or are in a life-or-death situation. Similarly, it’s not appropriate to give people fluoroquinolones for simple infections that could be treated with more benign antibiotics.

The Hippocratic Oath and Informed Consent – Forgotten Bedrocks of Medicine

Despite the fact that fluoroquinolones have severe side-effects, very few people are advocating for their removal from the market. When they are needed to save a life, they should be available. What most people (myself included) are advocating for is sensible, appropriate use of fluoroquinolones. Neither Cipro/ciprofloxacin, Levaquin/levofloxacin, Avelox/moxifloxacin nor Floxin/ofloxacin should be prescribed to people who can be helped by a more benign antibiotic. (Adherence to the Hippocratic Oath should prevent this from happening, but it’s not). Fluoroquinolones should not be given to people without a warning about the severe cellular damage that can be done by these drugs. (Informed consent is important.) In order for fluoroquinolones to be thought of and administered appropriately, both physicians and patients need to be aware of how dangerous fluoroquinolones are, and how severe their adverse effects can be.

Through people telling their stories of how fluoroquinolones hurt them, awareness of the dangers of fluoroquinolones will come. Hopefully, sensible and appropriate use of these powerful, dangerous drugs will follow.

Fluoroquinolones can do good, but they can do harm too. Categorizing things in terms of good or bad is the natural inclination of most people, but it’s never that simple for drugs. All drugs can do good, but they can do harm too – hence the list of side-effects that comes with each prescription. We can’t yet ask for drugs to only do good, and never do harm – that’s not the way the world works. But we can ask for dangerous drugs to be used appropriately. It is ONLY appropriate for fluoroquinolones to be used in life-or-death situations when other antibiotics aren’t effective. To use them flippantly, and when they aren’t entirely necessary, is inappropriate and a violation of the Hippocratic Oath.

Information about Fluoroquinolone Toxicity

Information about the author, and adverse reactions to fluoroquinolone antibiotics (Cipro/ciprofloxacin, Levaquin/levofloxacin, Avelox/moxifloxacin and Floxin/ofloxacin) can be found on Lisa Bloomquist’s site, www.floxiehope.com.

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Hormones MatterTM is conducting research on the side effects and adverse events associated with the fluoroquinolone antibiotics, Cipro, Levaquin, Avelox and others: The Fluoroquinolone Antibiotics Side Effects Study. The study is anonymous, takes 20-30 minutes to complete and is open to anyone who has used a fluoroquinolone antibiotic. Please complete the study and help us understand the scope of fluoroquinolone reactions.

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2 Comments

  1. Thank you so much for your kind words, Pauline! I really appreciate the compliments! 🙂

    I’m so sorry that you got needlessly hurt by fluoroquinolone antibiotics! What happened to you is wrong. There is no other way of saying it – it’s WRONG. I think that the reasoning behind you being prescribed FQs for a mild infection is better described by a couple doctors in a few recent media articles –

    In The New York Times article, “Popular Antibiotics May Carry Serious Side-Effects” it was noted that, “In an interview, Mahyar Etminan, a pharmacological epidemiologist at the University of British Columbia, said the drugs were overused ‘by lazy doctors who are trying to kill a fly with an automatic weapon.’”

    In “Your Doctor’s Knee-Jerk Reflex: How Not to Get Kicked” by Dr. David Katz, M.D., published in the Huffington Post, it was noted that, “Often, the easiest way for a busy clinician to be sure to ‘cover the bases’ with an antibiotic is to go after a fly with an elephant gun. The collateral damage can, predictably, be considerable; a consequence of knee-jerk prescribing.”

    They grab the biggest gun possible, because they don’t think about collateral damage.

    Any doctor who doesn’t think about the harm that they can do with drugs should have their license taken away. We need thoughtful people in medicine. Exclusively.

    Regards,
    Lisa

  2. Such a great article! Fluoroquinolone Antibiotics are just so powerful that they need to be prescribed with great care. I had spent 20 years avoiding antibiotics because the medical community warned us about developing antibiotic-resistant virus strains. When I showed up at an Emergency room for a very mild infection from a scratch on my leg, Cipro should never have been a first line of defense. I was so “drug-free” at that point, that I would have responded very well to a milder antibiotic. But the Cipro was so powerful in that instance that it left me with an immediate and permanent disabling crisis that changed the course of my life forever. But the worst part of all, is the fact that the medical community is incapable or unwilling to fix what it breaks.THAT should be recognized as a crime. Not only do they “do harm” but refusing to help fix the problem (or even acknowledge it) is BEYOND damaging.

    Lisa, you are such an incredibly valuable resource to the community of floxies. You have a tremendous gift for communicating what is very complicated into its simplest format. Thank you for all your endeavors. I am personally very grateful for your efforts.

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