Dangers of Antibiotics - Consumer Justice Foundation

Dangers of Antibiotics

Written by Faith Anderson on September 25, 2012
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Retinal Detachment, Tendon Rupture and Peripheral Neuropathy Side Effects

The most popular group of antibiotics is called oral fluoroquinolones – which includes the drugs Levaquin (levofloxafin), Cipro (ciprofloxacin), and Avelox (moxifloxacin) – but, according to recent research, these antibiotics actually increase a patient’s risk of developing a retinal detachment by five times, compared to those who don’t take these medications. In 2006, the consumer advocate group Public Citizen petitioned the FDA to include a warning on fluoroquinolones regarding the risk of tendon ruptures, which is believed to be caused by a toxicity that “may decrease blood supply in tendons that already have a limited blood supply,” the press release stated. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until 2008 that the FDA began to require a warning label on the fluoroquinolone class of antibiotics. In addition to tendon ruptures, a Swedish study found that fluoroquinolone antibiotics may also cause peripheral neuropathy, a condition that results in numbness and pain in the feet and hands.

Azithromycin Antibiotic Linked to Cardiovascular Mortality

Another potentially dangerous antibiotic called azithromycin was recently shown to nearly triple the risk of cardiovascular mortality when compared to the rate for a group of patients who didn’t take the antibiotic medication. Azithromycin belongs to a class of antibiotic drugs called macrolides, which have been associated with dangerous cardiovascular effects. Commonly referred to by brand names Zithromax or Zmax, azithromycin is used to treat certain infections caused by bacteria, including pneumonia, bronchitis, and infections of the ears, lungs, skin and throat (strep throat). Although fatalities associated with the use of azithromycin are rare, the highest rate was observed in patients with cardiovascular disease.

Antibiotic Over-Prescription May Lead to Resistance

So, if antibiotics pose such serious risks, why are they used so often? According to pharmacological epidemiologist Mahyar Etiman, antibiotics are overused “by lazy doctors who are trying to kill a fly with an automatic weapon.” For example, antibiotics aren’t effective against colds, flu and certain viral infections, but they are sometimes prescribed to patients for these purposes anyway. A sore throat is one of the most common reasons for an antibiotic prescription, but, according to recently updated guidelines by the Infectious Disease Society of America (IDSA), a sore throat is likely to be caused by a virus, not strep throat. If a sore throat is caused by a viral infection, antibiotics would not be effective in treating the illness. In addition, this type of over-prescription of antibiotics can lead to resistance, which means that the powerful drugs become less effective at fighting the bacteria they are actually intended to treat. In fact, infectious organisms can adapt to the antibiotics, developing new strains of bacteria that are immune to the drugs.

Studies Link Antibiotics to MRSA Infection

When it comes to strep throat, for example, the revised IDSA guidelines recommend treatment with amoxicillin or penicillin, since strep is becoming resistant to broader-spectrum antibiotics commonly used in the past, including azithromycin and other macrolides. A more serious drug-resistant bacteria is methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, which is also known as a staph infection. According to a 2007 review of 76 studies involving close to 25,000 patients, there is a clear connection between antibiotics and MRSA, and while MRSA most commonly causes mild skin infections, the side effects can also be more serious and may even be life-threatening. The MRSA infection is difficult to treat, and may result in a more serious infection in the bloodstream, lungs, bones or joints. If your doctor prescribes antibiotics, be sure to ask about potential side effects and if there are any alternative treatment options. Be sure to carefully follow the instructions on the bottle as well, and to finish the entire prescription even if you feel better early on.

Posted Under: United States
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