FDA Says Treating Common Infections With These Antibiotics Is Too Risky

The FDA has determined that certain antibiotics may do more harm than good.

According to Consumer Reports, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is now advising against prescribing fluoroquinolones, a group of antibiotics that includes drugs such as Cipro and Levaquin, to treat three common illnesses—bronchitis, sinus infections and urinary tract infections.

This new recommendation comes on the heels of a safety review that revealed the drugs can cause disabling and potentially permanent side effects. Those side effects can affect tendons, muscles, joints, nerves and the central nervous system.

The FDA created an expert advisory panel to review the safety of using fluoroquinolones to treat common infections. The 21-member panel decided overwhelmingly that, in most cases, the benefit of fluoroquinolones to treat bronchitis, sinus infections and urinary tract infections was not worth the risk of dangerous side effects, which include irregular heartbeats, depression, nerve damage, ruptured tendons and seizures.

So how often are these drugs prescribed?

That’s the scary part. Currently, bronchitis, sinus infections and urinary tract infections account for one-third of all fluoroquinolones prescribed outside of hospitals in the U.S.

While there are serious infections, such as anthrax, that may require fluoroquinolones, for more common infections, other treatments typically work just as effectively with less risk.

Rachel Brummert, the executive director of the Quinolone Vigilance Foundation, was one of more than 30 people who spoke during the open public hearing about the drug’s impact on their lives.

“I am living proof that the risks in using a fluoroquinolone to treat a routine infection far outweighs the benefits,” she said.

She described her ever-worsening series of health problems, including 10 ruptured tendons and progressive nerve damage, that she’s suffered as side effects after taking Levaquin for a sinus infection in 2006.

Talk to your doctor

If you have a condition that may require an antibiotic, the best thing to do is talk to your doctor to determine the best treatment for your specific illness. The majority of cases of bronchitis and sinus infections will resolve themselves without antibiotics.

Photo by Fillmore Photography