BOSTON (CBS) – Fluoroquinolones are a powerful family of antibiotics that can save lives. In serious cases, doctors often don’t have other options.
But as the I-Team first reported last year, these drugs can often cause debilitating side effects. Critics maintain they are over-prescribed.
On Thursday, the Food and Drug Administration will hold a meeting to consider changing how these drugs are used. Massachusetts families plan on attending to share how these drugs devastated them.
Nick Newell will tell federal regulators how his brother Ollie started a downward spiral after taking several doses of Ciprofloxacin. It was prescribed for a urinary tract infection.
Ollie was a vibrant robust man who still played basketball, but his body couldn’t withstand the impact of a fluoroquinolone. He took his own life after his symptoms continued to worsen.
In a letter to family and friends, Ollie wrote “I guess this affliction beat me. . . I did try pretty hard to get past it, for what it is worth. Sort of tough to do with all systems affected (muscles, joints, skin, nerves, heart, intestinal, memory, hearing, etc. . .) and really no end in sight.”
Nick will read Ollie’s letter as part of his testimony. “We saw this drug completely change him.”
Liz Newell, Ollie’s sister, said he was troubled by the deep mental fog brought on by the drug.
The FDA is considering changes in how these powerful drugs are prescribed. They are very common and go by names like Cipro, Levaquin, and Noroxin, to name a few.
Thousands of patients have reported crushing side effects like ruptured tendons, nerve damage, and psychological impairment.
“The most important thing I think that will come out of this meeting is that the FDA is realizing that fluoroquinolone side effects are much more disabling than the side effects of other antibiotics,” said Nick.
The FDA advisory panel is expected to say these drugs are not suitable for treating sinusitis, bronchitis, or urinary tract infections.
Doctor Charles Bennett, one of the nation’s leading drug company watchdogs, has long argued physicians over prescribe these drugs. He has authored citizen’s petitions asking for increased labeling.
“We are talking about going into the physician’s office, having a little sniffle, walking out with an antibiotic and shortly after having these kinds of problems,” explained Dr. Bennett.
That’s what happened to Andrea Siani of Concord when she was treated with Levaquin for a non-life threatening infection.
Today, Siani is able to get around her home without crutches, most of the time. That is a big improvement from when we first met her last winter and she needed them all the time.
“I still have a huge problem walking. I can walk around the block. That is about the limit of my walking,” added Siani.
The community health worker plans to tell the FDA just how healthy she was before she took the truck. In fact, she went skiing on Tuckerman’s Ravine just a few days before taking her first dose.
She is encouraged, however, that the panel is expected to adopt a new term: Fluoroquinolone Associated Disability.
“In providing a name, they are recognizing that there is a compilation of side effects that people are dealing with,” said Siani.
The I-Team spoke to a manufacturer of one of these drugs who said fluoroquinolones have been effective in fighting serious bacterial infections for years, and that current labeling is appropriate.