Cipro’s Safety Warnings Just Got Worse

Tsipro was prescribed once. When I brought the bottle of pills home, I took a minute to read the brochure that the pharmacy puts in their bag – mostly to be a diligent nerd, not because I expected any shocking news. But when I got to the part that said one of the side effects was tendon rupture (!!!), I put the flyer aside and called my doctor to ask for another medication.

Since then, fluoroquinolone antibiotics – the chemical family that includes ciprofloxacin, or cipro – have been identified as carrying several different types of serious risks, with the most recent warnings only issued yesterday. Cipro and his friends can cause blood sugar levels to drop enough to cause a person to fall into a coma, and these antibiotics can also cause “mental health side effects,” including agitation, memory and attention problems, and a serious mental disorder called delirium .

In 2013, the FDA added warnings about the ability of these antibiotics to cause permanent nerve damage. And back in 2008, shortly after I discovered the fine print about tendon rupture, the fluoroquinolones got the tendonitis and tendon rupture warning right on the label. (You can rupture a tendon, such as the Achilles tendon on the back of your ankle, even months after taking the drug.)

Fortunately, these drugs are not prescribed as freely as they used to be. In 2016, the FDA warned that fluoroquinolones should only be used as a last resort for urinary tract infections and certain other infections where they were once common. Cipro is still considered suitable for treating anthrax, plague, and bacterial pneumonia because the benefits almost always outweigh the risks in these cases.

Therefore, if you have received a prescription for one of these antibiotics, which includes levofloxacin (Levaquin), ciprofloxacin (Cipro), moxifloxacin (Avelox), ofloxacin, hemifloxacin (Factive), and delafloxacin (Baxdela), always ask your doctor two questions: fair play to ask about any medicine or treatment:

  • What are the risks or side effects of this?
  • Is there another option that works for me without these risks?

Sometimes the answer is that fluoroquinolone is really the best option. If I contracted the bubonic plague (yes, still real ), I would accept it. And for more common infections, sometimes allergies and bacterial resistance can narrow the choices, so the only thing left to try is a fluoroquinolone. But if your doc is still serving out Cipro for UMPs, they should know better at this point.


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