SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) – Patients say a powerful strain of prescribed antibiotics actually left them feeling worse, and now they want the Food and Drug Administration go beyond their standard warning letting patients know about the risks.
The pills in question are a powerful class of antibiotics known as Fluoroquinolones. They include drugs like Cipro and Levaquin.
“After the first pill I noticed I wasn’t able to follow conversations with coworkers,” said Michael Kaferly of Colorado.
Many patients say they took the drugs to treat infections, but were actually harmed instead.
“It felt like a bomb went off in my body,” said Chris Jones of California.
The drugs already carry a “black box warning,” the strongest and most serious that the FDA can require. Now there is a push, in part by Bay Area patients, to add even more. The current warning indicates that Fluoroquinolones can cause tendinitis and even tendon rupture.
“People’s lives are being destroyed by these drugs and it’s not okay,” says patient Lisa Bloomquest.
Doctor Charles Bennett has filed two petitions with the FDA. He wants the agency to add new boxed warnings to the drugs stating that they may cause psychiatric problems as well as mitochondrial damage to cells. That, he says, can lead to diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
“Doctors are not aware of the full toxicities associated with the quinolones,” Bennett says.
But there are some concerns about the new black box campaign.
“I believe petitions are worth considering, but only when then the preponderance of evidence there is science behind it,” said Dr. Joseph Guigliemo, Dean of the UCSF Pharmacy program.
He says there is no good research to back up the petitions. However, there is overwhelming data suggesting the drugs are inappropriately prescribed for smaller infections like sinus, ear and throat infections.
Experts say that using fluoroquinolones for minor infections is like using a sledgehammer to kill a fly.
“When any drug is being prescribed, be clear, ask the question ‘what do I really gain from this drug?’” said Dr. Guiliemo, who cautions patients to know what the risk is of using any drug.
Some believe that’s still not enough.
“They haven’t done a good enough job at warning the public,” said Jones.
American doctors write 25 million prescriptions for this class of antibiotics each year.