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FDA Warns that Some Antibiotics Linked to Permanent Nerve Damage

Pill BottleRecently, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning that fluoroquinolone antibiotics, taken by mouth or injection, carry a serious risk for permanent peripheral neuropathy. As a result, the FDA is requiring manufacturers of these antibiotics to revise their labels and medication guides to warn people of this dangerous health risk.

Fluoroquinolones are among the most highly prescribed antibiotics in the United States. The FDA reports that approximately 23.1 million patients received a prescription for fluoroquiolones in 2011 and around 3.8 million hospital patients were injected with a fluoroquinolone product in 2011. Manufacturers of these various floroquinolone products include Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Merck, Bayer Healthcare, Cornerstone Therapy, and Ortho McNeil Pharmaceuticals. The following drugs are fluoroquinolones currently on the market:

  • Levaquin® (levofloxacin)
  • Cipro® (ciprofloxacin)
  • Factive® (gemifloxacin)
  • Avelox® (moxifloxacin)
  • Noroxin® (norfloxacin)
  • Floxin® (ofloxacin)

Peripheral neuropathy causes damage to the nerves that send information to and from the brain and spinal cord – and throughout the rest of the body. Symptoms vary depending on the types of nerves damaged, but generally include the following symptoms in the arms and/or legs: weakness, numbness, tingling, burning, shooting pain, and/or change in sensation to light touch, pain, temperature, or sense of body position.

Twelve years ago, a study published in The Annals of Pharmacotherapy found that fluoroquinolone antibiotics were possibly associated with severe, long-term adverse effects to the peripheral nervous system and other organ systems. Many experts will caution that fluoroquinolones should be reserved for treating only serious bacterial infections, given the severity of the drugs’ side effects. According to The New York Times, “doctors at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have expressed concern that too often fluoroquinolones are prescribed unnecessarily as a ‘one size fits all’ remedy without considering their suitability for different patients.”


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