By Bill Cash

October 25th, 2012  2:00pm

Recent studies show that certain widely-used antibiotics may dramatically increase the risks of certain side effects.

  • As reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association in April this year, patients who were currently taking antibiotics in the fluoroquinolone class—including Cipro (ciprofloxacin), Levaquin (levofloxacin)—were at nearly five times the risk of developing retinal detachment than patients who were not.
  • In May, the New England Journal of Medicine published an article suggesting that patients taking azithromycin (sometimes known as the “Z-Pak”) experienced sudden cardiovascular death at nearly triple the rate of those not taking any antibiotics.  In this particular study, azithromycin was considered to be associated with significantly more risk than amoxicillin or ciprofloxacin.
  • And this month the New York Times reported on a forthcoming study suggesting that users of fluoroquinolones were at substantially increased risk of acute kidney failure.

These studies do not necessarily prove that the drugs are at fault for the entire increase in risks; It could be that the drugs are responsible for some additional risk but there are other factors that further increase them.  Or, it could be that there is some other mechanism at work and the increased risks seen here are coincidences.  For example, patients who are prescribed antibiotics obviously have presented themselves to doctors with some kind of physical complaint, or they would not have been prescribed the drugs in the first place.  So patients who suffer these side effects may already be experiencing a disease or injury that leads to further complications.  What is striking about some of these results, however, is the dramatic increases with certain drugs as compared to other antibiotics generally.  Medical science may not be able to explain these risks without further research.

What patients can do, however, is to talk with their doctors carefully about the risks of antibiotics.  In addition to these potential risks, antibiotics also have well-known other side effects, and the overuse of antibiotics in medicine has caused some of them to lose their efficacy entirely.  Patients should ask their doctors whether antibiotic therapy really is necessary and whether the right drug for the job is being prescribed.

Bill Cash is an associate at Levin, Papantonio, Thomas, Mitchell, Rafferty & Proctor, P.A.  Mr. Cash represents people wrongfully injured across the United States.  He concentrates his practice mainly in the area of products liability, including pharmaceuticals and other consumer products, but occasionally also handles other personal injury claims and contract cases.

More on antibiotic dangers.