When firefighter Chris Jones developed groin pain, he wrote it off as a hernia. Upon visiting his doctor, who suspected his pain was due to an infection, Jones was prescribed Cipro (ciproflaxacin)—a powerful antibiotic belonging to a class of drugs called fluoroquinolones (FLQs), which include Avelox and Levaquin. These strong drugs are typically used to treat serious infections, such as anthrax, but have often been improperly prescribed to kill bacteria responsible for minor infections. Two days into Jones’ prescription, he started feeling soreness in his legs, which were symptoms congruous with what he researched online about the drug, but his doctors told him to continue with the prescription, dismissing his internet findings. After his third refill, the pain only got worse: “I went on a walk with my dog and it felt like an explosion went off in my body,” Jones said. Since then, he hasn’t been the same—the drug has robbed Jones of his career, as he is unable to climb ladders, lift gurneys, or even his own children.
Some experts say FLQs like Cipro, Avelox, and Levaquin are prescribed too frequently, including Dr. Charles Bennett, a professor of pharmacy at the University of South Carolina who has filed a citizen’s petition asking the FDA for broader warning for FLQs. “Doctors are not aware of the full range of toxicities that are associated with the quinolones,” he said. With more than 4,500 adverse reports submitted to the FDA linking these dangerous side effects to FLQs—and 23 million prescriptions of for them being filled each year—Jones doesn’t believe he or the public has been sufficiently warned of the medications’ dangers.