What’s the Buzz

The Truth About Fluoroquinolone Antibiotics

Image of pills spilling out of a bottle

Throughout the year on social media, certain posts reach viral status. The Mountains and Mustard Seeds blog post titled "This Antibiotic Will Ruin You" has been shared on Facebook 2.1 million times and views climb north of 12 million. The story has been picked up by news sites and health blogs across the internet. So, what's the story on Fluoroquinolone antibiotics? What's the truth?

What is a Fluoroquinolone Antibiotic?

These antibiotic medications are considered broad-spectrum, which means they're used to treat a wide variety of bacterial infections. Some brand names that you might have heard of from television ads or from your doctor or pharmacy include Cipro and Levaquin. These are fluoroquinolone antibiotics. These and other fluoroquinolone antibiotics have treated many infections successfully, returning patients to health without any problems.

FDA Warnings and Updates

If the medication works well, then what’s the problem? Like every drug on the market in the U.S., the FDA takes adverse reports and studies seriously. In 2016 the FDA issued a Safety Announcement stating:

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved changes to the labels of fluoroquinolone antibacterial drugs for systemic use (i.e., taken by mouth or by injection). These medicines are associated with disabling and potentially permanent side effects of the tendons, muscles, joints, nerves, and central nervous system that can occur together in the same patient. As a result, we revised the Boxed Warning, FDA’s strongest warning, to address these serious safety issues. We also added a new warning and updated other parts of the drug label, including the patient Medication Guide...

These drugs were widely used to treat urinary tract infections, skin infections, sinus infections, and more, but now they're only recommended by the FDA for certain conditions. In fact, the warning to physicians is that fluoroquinolone should not be prescribed when other treatments are possible because the risks outweigh the benefits. Particularly, other treatments are recommended for common infections such as sinusitis, bronchitis, and UTIs. If you have any of these ailments and your physician mentions an antibiotic, make sure to ask what kind of antibiotic and whether it’s the best option.

Take Warnings and Labels Seriously

The FDA, drug manufacturers, pharmacies, and doctors do their job to keep you safe and healthy up until the medication makes it to your hands. Then the job is yours. Read all information given with your medication by your doctor and pharmacist, as well as the information provided by the manufacturer. Be aware of adverse reactions so you know to seek medical help before serious damage occurs. It's especially important that you stay vigilant and look for symptoms that range from tendon rupture and tendinitis (as indicated in the blogger's story), to extreme side effects such as depression.

Do not get caught up in trendy or viral opinions that may affect your health and medical treatment. It's always best to consult a licensed physician or pharmacist and do your own research where your health is concerned.