Fluoroquinolones are a class of antibiotics used to kill or stop the growth of bacteria (1). Fluoroquinolone antibiotics include ciprofloxacin (Cipro), gemifloxacin (Factive), levofloxacin (Levaquin), moxifloxacin (Avelox), and ofloxacin (Floxin)(1). Fluoroquinolone use has drawn concern from the FDA, among others, prompting the organization to update regulatory warnings on the antibiotic.
And now, a woman from Oklahoma is sharing her own harrowing story hoping to spread public awareness about the serious risks associated with fluoroquinolone use.
Fluoroquinolones are used to treat bacterial infections, in cases where traditional antibiotics have proved inefficient. Fluoroquinolones are powerful enough to treat extreme cases such as anthrax, plague and bacterial pneumonia (2). In many cases, the risks associated with fluoroquinolones, do not justify its use. Rather, doctors should only use them as an absolute last resort in special circumstances.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises against the use of fluoroquinolones to treat common illnesses such as bronchitis, sinus infections, and urinary tract infections without complications (2). Such illnesses, they suggest are only to be treated with antibacterial medicines void of the risks presented by fluoroquinolones.
Warning: Fluoroquinolone Risks and Side Effects
Levaquin Ruined My Life
In 2014, two days after Winslow took fluoroquinolones to treat a urinary tract infection, she was in the back of an ambulance with kidney failure. While in hospital, Winslow developed pneumonia and was treated with Levaquin. Upon returning home, Winslow reported feeling tired and weak but didn’t think anything of taking Levaquin.
In 2015, a second bout of pneumonia struck, again Winslow was treated with Levaquin. By the time she left the hospital, Winslow was in excruciating pain; she couldn’t walk or touch anything.
The pain in Winslow’s hands and feet was a Levaquin side effect called peripheral neuropathy. Winslow went to see her doctor regarding the pain. Written within the doctor’s report were the words: “death is imminent” (4). At that point, Winslow said that “if I had a gun then, I would have shot myself. The pain made me desperate” (4).
Winslow mentioned to her doctor it was her belief that Levaquin hurt her. Her doctor concurred, saying, “I know it did”.
In addition to peripheral neuropathy pain, Winslow developed two aneurysms. One aneurysm was in her stomach, the other closer to her chest.
Detailing the painful effects of peripheral neuropathy, Winslow says, “I couldn’t get to the bathroom on my own. I couldn’t even make a cup of coffee. I had to wear gloves because God forbid I touch something. The pain in my hands was so bad. You sit on the couch with your arms around your knees, you don’t want your feet to touch anything” (4).
Consequently, Winslow’s husband quit his job as a truck driver to stay home and care for her.
I Would Have Chosen Cancer Over This
Before the effects of fluoroquinolones, Winslow withstood a triple bypass and bone cancer.
Comparing her previous illnesses to peripheral neuropathy Winslow says, “I was fine when I was getting my chemo shots. I was a little tired but at least I could walk”. If I had to choose, I would keep the cancer over the side effects from Cipro and Levaquin” (4). Telling words, justly detailing the dire circumstances of this battle-tested woman.
Each time Winslow has her two aneurysms checked out, they grow. Winslow is “constantly afraid that these aneurysms are going to rupture one day” (4).
Winslow and her husband are angry about not being warned of the side effects. Winslow says the Cipro bottle merely warns, “stay out of the sun” while the Levaquin bottle “says nothing”(4).
Winslow’s Message to the Public
The gritty grandmother has a message, stay away from fluoroquinolone antibiotics, particularly Cipro and Levaquin. In Winslow’s words, “I beg people to stay away from these drugs”(4).
Winslow has plans to take this to court, having contacted a lawyer to sue Janssen Pharmaceuticals, the company that manufactures Levaquin. Currently, there are nearly 800 cases pending in federal and state court involving allegations that fluoroquinolone use causes peripheral neuropathy (5).
Winslow is among many who unwittingly fell victim to dangerous side effects of fluoroquinolones. In a related story, a Southland firefighter shares how fluoroquinolones stole his livelihood: