Antibiotics are prescribed millions of times per year, and are generally considered safe and effective by researchers, however, this is not always true, and many people are injured and even die from the use of antibiotics. Serious side effects have been reported across all the different classes of antibiotics, but none so much as the Fluoroquinolone class of antibiotics that have been reported to be responsible for everything from minor issues to disability to death. So much so that there are sites like this across the internet dedicated to the attempt at educating the public about these dangerous drugs.
Some of the side effects of these drugs are well-known, such as tendonitis and tendon rupture, that have had some attention in the media due to the Black Box Warning on the label and the many class-action law suits against drug companies. Other side effects are lesser known, like the effects these drugs can have on bone growth and bone healing.
The negative effects of these drugs on the bone growth of children has been well documented to cause problems with growth in the sensitive ‘growth plates’ in children. As such, governing bodies have informed doctors to severely limit the use of Fluoroquinolones to only life-threatening infections in children where other antibiotics won’t work. This is due to several animal studies reporting bone and cartilage problems (3), as well as at least one report of a child having such serious damage to his joints that he needed to have multiple joint replacements after taking Fluoroquinolone antibiotics (2).
In fact, there have also been several incidences of bone malformations in infants born to mothers who took Fluoroquinolone antibiotics (1). So, these risks are quite real and can lead to serious lifelong health issues.
But children are not the only ones affected; impaired fracture healing and other bone and joint problems have been reported in adults as well. One study states ominously, “Quinolones are thought to cause chondrocyte death and degeneration of articular cartilage resulting in fissure formation and cartilage erosions”, and several animal studies have shown decreased fracture healing in animals taking the Fluoroquinolone drugs (5). Additionally, it’s known that corticosteroid drugs such as Prednisone have the known side effect of slowing bone growth and even contributing to osteoporosis, and these drugs are very often given to those taking Fluoroquinolones, despite the fact that they are known to cause increased rates of side effects when given together.
This particular side effect is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the side effects of the Fluoroquinolone drugs. The toxicities that often do not become known until the drugs are released onto the market are incredibly vast and devastating to those effected. While studies show these devastating problems to be rare, the problems that occur to real-life people have them almost universally say that if they had known these drugs would be so damaging, they would never have taken them. Considering that some studies have estimated that up to Half of All Antibiotics are Prescribed Unnecessarily, it seems that many of those injured by these antibiotics were injured unnecessarily.
(1) Further analysis of the risk of adverse birth outcome after maternal use of fluoroquinolones
(2) Clinical Use of Fluoroquinolones in Children
(3) Will Fluoroquinolones Ever Be Recommended for Common Infections in Children?
(4) Pharmacological agents and impairment of fracture healing
(5) A comparison of effects of fluoroquinolones on fracture healing (an experimental study in rats)