The Term “Flox”

When I tell people about this site they often ask me what the terms flox, floxed, and floxie mean. I am not a lexicographer by any stretch, and these are not official definitions, but here are my answers:

Flox (noun): A shorthand term for the multi-symptom, chronic illnesses brought on by fluoroquinolone antibiotics that are referred to as Fluoroquinolone toxicity or Fluoroquinolone Associated Disability (FQAD).

Flox (verb): To be afflicted with fluoroquinolone toxicity or FQAD. The term “flox” is typically used in the past tense as “floxed,” as in, “I was floxed by cipro in 2011.”

Floxie (noun): A person who suffers from fluoroquinolone toxicity or FQAD.

The term “flox” comes from the names of the fluroquinolone antibiotics. All the fluoroquinolones contain “flox” in their names – ciproFLOXacin, levoFLOXacin, moxiFLOXacin, gatiFLOXacin, oFLOXacin, etc. As communities of victims of these drugs formed, people found it easier to say, “I’ve been floxed” or, “I’m a floxie” than to say, “I am going though a multi-symptom illness brought on by fluoroquinolone antibiotics.” Perhaps the term “FQAD” would have been just as easy to say as “flox,” but “flox” preceded “FQAD” by more than a decade and the term has stuck.

The earliest written record of the term “flox” that I can find is in Stephen Fried’s 1998 bestselling book, “Bitter Pills: Inside the Hazardous World of Legal Drugs.” In it, Fried describes his wife’s severe, primarily psychiatric, adverse reaction to ofloxacin, a fluoroquinolone antibiotic. Fried noted that the community of people who had been hurt by this class of drugs referred to themselves as “floxies” and spoke of their condition as being “floxed.” (EDIT/NOTE – Please see Mr. Fried’s comment below for correct information about the early usage of the term “flox.)

Most journal, and even news, articles don’t use the terms “flox” or “floxie.” They typically refer to the constellation of symptoms that “floxies” deal with as “adverse reactions to fluoroquinolone antibiotics” or they don’t refer to the syndrome as a whole at all, rather, they’ll list the symptoms that their featured victim suffers from, and then note that the victim attributes those symptoms to fluoroquinolone antibiotics. A couple news articles have used the term FQAD, as it was coined by the FDA, and is seen as a bit more official than “flox.”

In online communities new terms are often coined, and they gain traction in those communities. “Flox” is one of those terms. The terms “flox” and “floxie” are primarily used on the internet in support groups for victims of fluoroquinolones. The biggest Facebook group for victims of fluoroquinolones is The Fluoroquinolone Toxicity Group, and their url is https://www.facebook.com/groups/floxies/ (note the “floxies” in the url – it’s easier than https://www.facebook.com/groups/FluoroquinoloneToxicityGroup). Additionally, this site is one of the more popular blogs about fluoroquinolones, and it’s called Floxie Hope. The terms “flox” and “floxie” are used throughout blogs and support groups dedicated to fluoroquinolone toxicity.

People within the “floxie” groups and communities know these terms and what they mean and imply. The people in the “floxie” community know when someone says that they are “severely floxed” that it means that person is suffering from more symptoms than they can count or name and that they are likely bed or house bound as a result of their fluoroquinolone-induced injuries. Of course, everyone’s experience is different, and people are encouraged in these communities to further describe their pain and their experience, but it’s far easier to say, “I’m severely floxed” than it is to list dozens of symptoms then say that those symptoms were caused by fluoroquinolone antibiotics.

Some people really hate the terms “flox” and they particularly hate the term “floxie.” They see the terms as silly and flippant, and they see it as disrespectful to those who are suffering from fluoroquinolone toxicity. Fluoroquinolone toxicity IS a serious and severe illness, and it should be taken seriously by doctors, patients, regulators, and everyone else. It is not a joke, or something to be taken lightly. It is a life-altering, often disabling, syndrome. Fluoroquinolones have maimed and killed people, and fluoroquinolone toxicity should be taken as seriously as other multi-symptom, chronic, mysterious illnesses like M.S., Lupus, Lyme Disease, M.E./CFS, etc.

Neither “flox” nor “floxie” are particularly serious terms, and I empathize, and even agree with, those who see it as minimizing the seriousness and severity of fluoroquinolone toxicity.

But… sometimes terms just stick. Both flox and floxie are terms that have resonated with people in the community, and they have stuck. Many people find it easier to describe their illness as being “floxed” than to describe it any other way. It resonates with people more to say, “floxies unite!” than it does to say, “victims of fluoroquinolone antibiotics come together!” For the purposes that the the terms are used, they work well for expressing what people want and need to say. I don’t think that anyone who uses the terms “flox” or “floxie” mean any disrespect to the illness or the people suffering from it. In fact, most of the people using the terms are either victims of fluoroquinolones or those who love a victim of fluoroquinolones.

I am writing this post on a site called Floxie Hope, so I am, of course, somewhat biased. I like the term “floxie” and it has become part of my brand (if you can say that a blog has a brand). I think that the term sticks in people’s minds and it resonates with them. There is an understanding of what it means–at least within our community. The naming of this site was somewhat accidental–I was trying to figure out how to create a web site and this was supposed to be my place-holder site until I figured out the mechanics of blogging, then I was supposed to think of a more well thought out name for the official site, but then this site got rolling while named Floxie Hope, and 5.5 years later, it’s still going and here we are.

I hear the people who think that “flox” and “floxie” aren’t serious enough terms to connote the severity of fluoroquinolone toxicity. In a lot of ways, I think they’re right. BUT, I don’t think that the term has held this community back. We have made a lot of progress over the last decade. We still have a lot of work to do, but millions of people have become aware of fluoroquinolone toxicity and fluoroquinolone dangers over the last decade, and part of the momentum of this community is our shared language and our shared understanding of terms like “flox.”

The terms “flox” and “floxie” are ingrained in our community, and they are likely here to stay as long as fluoroquinolones are hurting people (I hope for the extinction of the term through the strict limiting of the drugs – but we’re a long way from that and it’s certainly a matter for another post). I think that the terms are doing more good (through ease of communication, bringing people together, and having terms that resonate with many) than harm.

I am hopeful that the terms “flox” and “floxie” will someday be so well understood and accepted that they make it into the dictionary. The only criteria for words making it into the dictionary is that they appear in edited text, so I actually hope that more journalists start using the terms “flox” and “floxie” in their articles. Having the terms “flox” and “floxie” in the dictionary would be wonderfully validating, and it would help to increase awareness of fluoroquinolone toxicity.

When I describe this site, I often try to tell the back-story and give the long explanation of how I was hurt by ciprofloxacin. Sometimes the person who I’m talking to says something like, “Oh, you’ve been floxed – that happened to my sister-in-law.” The word is getting out, and the terms “flox” and “floxie” are spreading. It’s a good thing. Awareness is one of the most important steps toward change, and short, easy-to-remember terms like “flox” and “floxie” help people to become aware of the dangers of fluoroquinolones.

*****

NY Resolution to Heal My Gut

Seven years after I got floxed, and 5.5 years since I wrote my recovery story, I am still doing well. I am working at a job that I enjoy, I am in a good relationship, I can hike, bike, swim, and otherwise move my body, I have my reading comprehension and intellect back, my energy level is decent, and my autonomic nervous system generally operates as it’s supposed to. I feel good, and I’m living a good life. As I’ve said many times before, I hope that my recovery gives you hope for your healing.

With it noted that I’m generally healed, and that I feel good in most areas of my life, I’m going to confess that…

My gut is a mess, and I am worried about it.

I have no idea whether my gut issues are from being floxed or not. GI tract problems weren’t part of my initial floxing–I didn’t have any gut issues until recently. But in the last year(ish), my gut has started to have… issues. Unfortunately, there is no way to describe GI issues without describing bowel movements, so here goes – I haven’t had a normal textured poo in ages. It has been at least a year. TMI? Sorry.

Poorly formed stools are definitely a sign of inflammation and other gut issues, and, despite the fact that I feel generally okay, I’m concerned about my gut health.

I want a gut that doesn’t hurt every day, that forms healthy-textured poos, and that I don’t worry about. I don’t want to be concerned that I’m developing IBS, or crohn’s disease, or that I have c-diff, or anything else. I’m guessing that I don’t have any of those things, and that I just have an inflamed gut, but I don’t want that either. I want a healthy, happy, healed gut that feels good and operates entirely normally. I don’t think that’s too much to ask for. I also think that my gut is my responsibility, and that no one other than me can do anything about MY gut health.

It’s December 28th as I write this, and the beginning of the new year seems as good a time as any to commit to healing my gut. Here are some of the things I plan to do to heal my gut in 2019 (public accountability is good, right?):

Clean up my diet

When I first got floxed I ate only meat and veggies. I was scared of most foods, and I ended up losing weight and feeling worn-down because I wasn’t ingesting enough calories. After I got over the fear of food, I added fruits and other good things to my diet, and ended up eating as outlined in The Floxie Food Guide. But, after a while of feeling better, I stopped restricting my diet entirely. I didn’t eat much processed food because I’ve never liked processed food, but I ate whatever I wanted. Perhaps my GI issues are the result of my “anything goes” diet (or maybe my GI issues stem from something else like mold in my house or fluoride in my city’s water or a parasite – it’s hard to tell). Anyhow, it’s time to restrict my diet again with the hope of calming the inflammation in my intestines.

Step 1: Give up gluten. My husband has been on a bread-baking kick lately, so this will take some willpower, but it has helped so many people, and it seems like a logical first step, so, I’m going to go gluten-free and see if that helps.

Step 2: Give up legumes. I like beans, but they make me feel like crap.

Step 3: Limit dairy. I love dairy too much to say that I’m going to give it up, but I’m going to try to be cognizant of how much I eat and how it makes me feel and limit it.

I want to be able to sustain these changes, so these are the only things I’m going to do at first. If they don’t work, I’ll move on to a more restricted protocol – probably something close to The Wahls Protocol because it has helped so many fellow “floxies.”

I’ve noticed that oatmeal makes me feel better generally, so I’m going to eat more oatmeal. I’ve also noticed that spicy food tends to make me feel worse, so I’m going to limit them even though many spices are supposed to be anti-inflammatory.

Cut the coffee and alcohol

This is a no-brainer, right? No explanation is necessary as to why these need to go in order for me to heal my gut. It’s hard though, so, here’s my public accountability.

Note that the coffee I drink is decaf. I haven’t been able to tolerate caffeinated coffee post-flox.

I really like both coffee and alcohol, and this is going to be tough. I’m only committing to cutting down on them, not to completely giving up either, but I can commit to cutting the coffee by 50% and the alcohol by 80%.

Eat probiotic foods

Sauerkraut and kimchi, here I come. Luckily, I like both.

Meditate, breathing exercises, eat mindfully, and otherwise stimulate the vagus nerve to heal the gut

Our guts are connected to our brains via the vagus nerve, and stimulating and toning the vagus nerve through meditating, breathing exercises, mindfulness, and other activities, can heal both the gut and the brain.

Here is an interesting post about how a guy healed his IBS through stimulating his vagus nerve through gargling: How I Cured My Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

As I was going through the early stages of my fluoroquinolone toxicity journey I was really good about meditating, doing breathing exercises, going to the chiropractor and/or acupuncturist, and doing other things that stimulated my vagus nerve. I think that these things helped me to heal. They were part of my healing journey, and I recommend them to others because they are healing for the body, mind, and spirit, and because they stimulate the vagus nerve and trigger the release of acetylcholine. Like watching my diet, conscientiously doing activities that stimulated my vagus nerve fell to the wayside as I healed. I felt good, so I didn’t need to do breathing exercises to feel better. But, I think that all the vagus nerve healing exercises were helpful for my gut when I was doing them, and that they’ll be helpful for my gut if I do them again.

Shoot, I wrote a book about healing the vagus nerve – I should make the time to practice what I preach.

Step 1: Meditate daily

Step 2: Swim weekly – it forces breathing exercises, and movement is good for the vagus nerve.

Step 3: Eat mindfully

Step 4: Gargle and/or hum daily

 

Those are my resolutions, and I hope that they result in a happier, healthier gut.

I’m open to suggestions for gut healing. Please feel free to comment below to let me know what has helped you to heal your gut. As you may gather from the post above, I am not willing to go on a super-restrictive diet unless/until all else fails, but I am willing to hear suggestions. I’m also open to trying supplements that heal the gut including aloe juice, collagen, bone broth, probiotic supplements, etc. If you have any recommendations based on personal experience with gut-healing supplements, please comment below.

Whenever someone asks in the forums about how to heal from fluoroquinolone toxicity, someone always answers, “heal your gut.” They’re right, of course–but it’s easier said than done. There are people in the “floxie” community who are much more better about having a “clean” diet than I am who still struggle with GI issues and other symptoms of fluoroquinolone toxicity. I’m hopeful that my modified “clean-ish” diet will help my gut to heal, and that the other things mentioned above help too. I want to acknowledge though, that “healing the gut” is not simple and that there isn’t a single answer for how to do it. I’m hopeful that the steps noted above will help me, and that I’ll have a healthier, happier gut in 2019 than I did in 2018.

*****

 

 

 

 

FDA Warns About Increased Risk of Aortic Aneurysm and Dissection with Fluoroquinolone Antibiotics

On December 20, 2018, the US FDA released a review that “found that fluoroquinolone antibiotics can increase the occurrence of rare but serious events of ruptures or tears in the main artery of the body, called the aorta. These tears, called aortic dissections, or ruptures of an aortic aneurysm can lead to dangerous bleeding or even death. They can occur with fluoroquinolones for systemic use given by mouth or through an injection.” (source)

This acknowledgement from the FDA came three years after two major studies showed a statistically significant increase in risk of aortic dissection and aneurysm with fluoroquinolone use. The studies, “Risk of Aortic Dissection and Aortic Aneurysm in Patients Taking Oral Fluoroquinolone” (JAMA Internal Medicine, 2015), and “Fluoroquinolones and collagen associated severe adverse events: a longitudinal cohort study” (BMJ Open, 2015) both found that fluoroquinolone use is associated with an increased risk of aortic aneurysm and dissection, with “Risk of Aortic Dissection and Aortic Aneurysm in Patients Taking Oral Fluoroquinolone” concluding that:

“Use of fluoroquinolones was associated with an increased risk of aortic aneurysm and dissection. While these were rare events, physicians should be aware of this possible drug safety risk associated with fluoroquinolone therapy.”

Both “Risk of Aortic Dissection and Aortic Aneurysm in Patients Taking Oral Fluoroquinolone” and “Fluoroquinolones and collagen associated severe adverse events: a longitudinal cohort study” are major studies, with “analysis of 1477 case patients and 147 700 matched control cases from Taiwan’s National Health Insurance Research Database (NHIRD) from among 1 million individuals longitudinally observed from January 2000 through December 2011” for the former, and 1.7 million older adults in Ontario, Canada, for the later. They are robust studies that show a statistically significant association between fluoroquinolone-use and aortic aneurysm and dissection.

The FDA took too long to warn the public about the dangers of aortic aneurysm and dissection post exposure to fluoroquinolones, but, better late than never. Here is the full text of the FDA announcement that was published on Thursday December 20, 2018:

[12-20-2018] A U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) review found that fluoroquinolone antibiotics can increase the occurrence of rare but serious events of ruptures or tears in the main artery of the body, called the aorta.  These tears, called aortic dissections, or ruptures of an aortic aneurysm can lead to dangerous bleeding or even death.  They can occur with fluoroquinolones for systemic use given by mouth or through an injection.

Fluoroquinolones should not be used in patients at increased risk unless there are no other treatment options available.  People at increased risk include those with a history of blockages or aneurysms (abnormal bulges) of the aorta or other blood vessels, high blood pressure, certain genetic disorders that involve blood vessel changes, and the elderly.  We are requiring that a new warning about this risk be added to the prescribing information and patient Medication Guide for all fluoroquinolones.

Fluoroquinolone antibiotics are approved to treat certain bacterial infections and have been used for more than 30 years.  They work by killing or stopping the growth of bacteria that can cause illness.  Without treatment, some infections can spread and lead to serious health problems (see List of Currently Available FDA-Approved Systemic Fluoroquinolones).

Health care professionals should avoid prescribing fluoroquinolone antibiotics to patients who have an aortic aneurysm or are at risk for an aortic aneurysm, such as patients with peripheral atherosclerotic vascular diseases, hypertension, certain genetic conditions such as Marfan syndrome and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, and elderly patients.  Prescribe fluoroquinolones to these patients only when no other treatment options are available.  Advise all patients to seek immediate medical treatment for any symptoms associated with aortic aneurysm.  Stop fluoroquinolone treatment immediately if a patient reports side effects suggestive of aortic aneurysm or dissection.

Patients should seek medical attention immediately by going to an emergency room or calling 911 if you experience sudden, severe, and constant pain in the stomach, chest or back.  Be aware that symptoms of an aortic aneurysm often do not show up until the aneurysm becomes large or bursts, so report any unusual side effects from taking fluoroquinolones to your health care professional immediately.  Before starting an antibiotic prescription, inform your health care professional if you have a history of aneurysms, blockages or hardening of the arteries, high blood pressure, or genetic conditions such as Marfan syndrome or Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.  If you have been prescribed a fluoroquinolone to treat an infection, do not stop the antibiotic without first talking to your health care professional.

We reviewed cases reported to FDA* and four published observational studies1,2,3,4 that showed an increased risk of aortic aneurysm or dissection associated with fluoroquinolone use (see Data Summary).  How some of the studies were designed or carried out, and the ways the data were analyzed could affect the study findings; however, taken together, the results of all four studies provide consistent evidence of an association between fluoroquinolone use and aortic aneurysm or dissection.  The underlying mechanism for this risk cannot be determined from these studies, and the background risk of aortic aneurysm can vary depending on the population.  The background risk has been estimated from nine aortic aneurysm events per 100,000 people per year in the general population to 300 aortic aneurysm events per 100,000 people per year in individuals at highest risk.  Because multiple studies showed higher rates of about twice the risk of aortic aneurysm rupture and dissection in those taking fluoroquinolones, FDA determined the warnings were warranted to alert health care professionals and patients.

We communicated safety information associated with fluoroquinolones in July 2018 (significant decreases in blood sugar and certain mental health side effects), July 2016 (disabling side effects of the tendons, muscles, joints, nerves, and central nervous system), May 2016 (restricting use for certain uncomplicated infections), August 2013 (peripheral neuropathy), and July 2008 (tendinitis and tendon rupture).

To help FDA track safety issues with medicines, we urge patients and health care professionals to report side effects involving fluoroquinolones or other medicines to the FDA MedWatch program, using the information in the “Contact FDA” box at the bottom of the page.

More information about the link between fluoroquinolones and aortic aneurysm and dissection can be found in these studies or articles:

  1. JAMA Internal Medicine, “Risk of Aortic Dissection and Aortic Aneurysm in Patients Taking Oral Fluoroquinolone
  2. BMJ Open, “Fluoroquinolones and collagen associated severe adverse events: a longitudinal cohort study
  3. BMJ, “Fluoroquinolone use and risk of aortic aneurysm and dissection: nationwide cohort study
  4. Baylor College of Medicine, “Ciprofloxacin increases risk of tears, rupture in mouse aortas

Additionally, here are some news articles about the FDA acknowledgement of the link between fluoroquinolones and aortic aneurysm and dissection:

  1. CNN, “Certain antibiotics may cause aortic aneurysm, FDA warns
  2. NBC News, “FDA warns some antibiotics can cause fatal heart damage: Drugs commonly used to treat upper respiratory infection, urinary tract infections should not be prescribed to patients already at risk
  3. Medscape, “More Fluoroquinolone Safety Concerns
  4. WRIC ABC 8 Richmond, “Commonly prescribed antibiotics can cause potentially deadly ruptures, FDA warns

Are Fluoroquinolones Causing Connective Tissue Disorders that are Leading to ME/CFS?

The symptoms of fluoroquinolone toxicity often mimic those of ME/CFS (Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome). Many people suffering from fluoroquinolone toxicity experience debilitating fatigue, and some are bed-bound and permanently disabled from this symptom, along with all the others that come along with fluoroquinolone toxicity. Both fluoroquinolone toxicity and ME/CFS are multi-symptom, chronic syndromes that are poorly understood and often disregarded by those in the medical community. Research into the mechanisms behind both fluoroquinolone toxicity and ME/CFS show that mitochondria (the energy centers of our cells) are likely related to both diseases, and so is autonomic nervous system dysfunction, mast cell activation, metabolomics, epigenetics, immune system dysfunction, hormonal imbalances, and other areas of human biology. Both fluoroquinolone toxicity and ME/CFS also have significant overlap with other diseases such as Ehlers-Danlos syndromes (EDS), Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), and fibromyalgia.

The similarities between fluoroquinolone toxicity and ME/CFS may mean that they have a similar root mechanism…. or they may not. The root cause of fluoroquinolone toxicity is, of course, fluoroquinolones. (The mechanism behind fluoroquinolone toxicity is much more complex and the answer to the question of HOW fluoroquinolones hurt people is still being uncovered.) Most people who have ME/CFS don’t report that their symptoms started with fluoroquinolone exposure (though there is almost certainly some overlap, and there are likely some people who have been diagnosed with ME/CFS whose disease started with a fluoroquinolone prescription). There seem to be a variety of triggers that set off ME/CFS in previously healthy individuals, including, but not limited to, mold exposure and sensitivity, and exposure to a viral infection that the body never fully recovers from.

While it is possible that there are many cases of ME/CFS that were brought on by fluoroquinolones, and thus are “actually” fluoroquinolone toxicity (labels, shmables), it is also possible that both diseases/syndromes have a similar underlying mechanism despite different causes, and it is also possible that though the symptoms and features of both diseases are similar, they are actually different on a mechanistic and/or cellular level.

Though the possibilities for differences between fluoroquinolone toxicity and ME/CFS are potentially significant, the similarities are obvious, and it is likely that research that helps ME/CFS sufferers will help fluoroquinolone toxicity sufferers.

There is a theory about the mechanism behind ME/CFS that has recently come to my attention that could, potentially, tie it more directly to fluoroquinolone toxicity. The theory, in a nutshell, is this:

Some people with ME/CFS have an underlying predisposition for EDS, and thus collagen synthesis is disordered and connective tissues are weakened. The ligaments of the craniocervical junction (where your skull meets your first vertebra) become weak and this leads to craniocervical instability (CCI) and atlantoaxial instability (AAI) (together, CCI/AAI). When people suffer from CCI/AAI their neck ligaments don’t sufficiently hold up their head and their brain stems are compressed into their spines. This causes many symptoms of ME/CFS. (I’m not sure exactly how – ask someone who has done far more research into ME/CFS and/or CCI/AAI than me.)

You can read about how CCI/AAI relates to ME/CFS in these two links:

  1. MEchanical Basis
  2. A new diagnosis to add to the list: I have craniocervical and atlantoaxial instability

How does this relate to fluoroquinlones?

It is well known that fluoroquinolone antibiotics (Cipro/ciprofloxacin, Levaquin/levofloxacin, Avelox/moxifloxacin, Floxin/ofloxacin, and a few others) damage connective tissues–including musculoskeletal connective tissues like tendons, cartilage, bone, and muscle, as well as other connective tissues such as ocular tissue (including the retina)eardrums, and cardiac/heart tissue. Multiple studies have found that fluoroquinolones are toxic and damaging to connective tissues. Given the wide differences in tissues that fluoroquinolones have been shown to deleteriously affect–from cartilage to cardiac tissue–it is reasonable to assert that they damage all connective tissues throughout the body. (Read any of the articles in the citations listed below for information about how fluoroquinolones damage connective tissues.)

Given that fluoroquinolones damage connective tissues (probably all connective tissues – see links below), it is possible that they weaken the tendons of the neck and thus lead to CCI/AAI. CCI/AAI then leads to multi-symptom chronic illness including all the symptoms of ME/CFS (which are too numerous to count).

This weakening of tendons and subsequent CCI/AAI likely occurs more often in people with underlying connective tissue disorders like EDS. I suspect (though I have no proof of this) that there are many kinds of EDS that have not yet been identified, and that more people have the genes for a variation of EDS than those who can currently be diagnosed with the disease. It’s also possible that a genetic predisposition toward EDS is not necessary for fluoroquinolones to cause extensive connective tissue damage, and that they do so in everyone who is exposed to them (at varying levels, of course). Fluoroquinolones have been shown to damage dog and rat connective tissues, especially tendons, and human connective tissues exposed to fluoroquinolones have also shown extensive damage both in-vitro and through analysis of people exposed to fluoroquinolones. I have a hard time believing that all the rats, puppies, and people whose tissues were sampled all had underlying EDS prior to their tissues being destroyed by fluoroquinolones. However, it’s possible that underlying genetic predispositions, including those for EDS, determine how severely people are affected by fluoroquinolones. More research is, of course, needed.

Are fluoroquinolones causing CCI/AAI? And is CCI/AAI leading to ME/CFS? Given the large number of studies showing that fluoroquinolones destroy connective tissues and interfere with collagen synthesis, it’s quite plausible (even likely) that they cause CCI/AAI. How, and if, CCI/AAI is connected with ME/CFS is another question. But given the experiences of the authors of MEchanical Basis and A new diagnosis to add to the list: I have craniocervical and atlantoaxial instability, it’s a possibility that is certainly worth exploring.

 

Sources for the assertion that fluoroquinolones cause connective tissue destruction and disordered collagen synthesis:

Musculoskeletal Complications of Fluoroquinolones: Guidelines and Precautions for Usage in the Athletic Population. Hall, Mederic M. et al. PM&R , Volume 3 , Issue 2 , 132 – 142

Etminan M, Forooghian F, Brophy JM, Bird ST, Maberley D. Oral Fluoroquinolones and the Risk of Retinal Detachment. JAMA. 2012;307(13):1414-1419. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.383

Tsai WC, Hsu CC, Chen CP, et al. Ciprofloxacin up-regulates tendon cells to express matrix metalloproteinase-2 with degradation of type I collagen. J Orthop Res. 2011;29(1):67-73

Lee C, Lee MG, Chen Y, Lee S, Chen Y, Chen S, Chang S. Risk of Aortic Dissection and Aortic Aneurysm in Patients Taking Oral Fluoroquinolone. JAMA Intern Med. 2015;175(11):1839-1847. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2015.5389

Kaleagasioglu F, Olcay E. Fluoroquinolone-induced tendinopathy: etiology and preventive measures. Tohoku J Exp Med. 2012;226(4):251-258.

Adel Alrwisan, Patrick J. Antonelli, Almut G. Winterstein; Quinolone Ear Drops After Tympanostomy Tubes and the Risk of Eardrum Perforation: A Retrospective Cohort Study. Clin Infect Dis 2017; 64 (8): 1052-1058. doi: 10.1093/cid/cix032

EMA Committee Recommends Restricting Fluoroquinolones

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) put out the press release entitled “Disabling and potentially permanent side effects lead to suspension or restrictions of quinolone and fluoroquinolone antibiotics” on November 16, 2018. It goes over the recommendations of the EMA’s Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP), and expands on the earlier recommendations of the Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee (PRAC). Following are some highlights from “Disabling and potentially permanent side effects lead to suspension or restrictions of quinolone and fluoroquinolone antibiotics.”

“The CHMP confirmed that the use of the remaining fluoroquinolone antibiotics should be restricted. In addition, the prescribing information for healthcare professionals and information for patients will describe the disabling and potentially permanent side effects and advise patients to stop treatment with a fluoroquinolone antibiotic at the first sign of a side effect involving muscles, tendons or joints and the nervous system.”

This is a strong statement from the EMA. It is recommended that the fluoroquinolones that remain on the market in Europe (including, but not limited to, ciprofloxacin, levofloxacin, moxifloxacin, ofloxacin, and norfloxacin) will be restricted, and patients and healthcare providers alike will be given information about the disabling effects of these drugs. That’s a HUGE step in the right direction!

“Restrictions on the use of fluoroquinolone antibiotics will mean that they should not be used:

  • to treat infections that might get better without treatment or are not severe (such as throat infections);
  • to treat non-bacterial infections, e.g. non-bacterial (chronic) prostatitis;
  • for preventing traveller’s diarrhoea or recurring lower urinary tract infections (urine infections that do not extend beyond the bladder);
  • to treat mild or moderate bacterial infections unless other antibacterial medicines commonly recommended for these infections cannot be used.”

This list is great, and if it, combined with the US FDA’s list of ailments for which fluoroquinolones should not be used, is followed, fluoroquinolone prescriptions will be cut significantly.

I am particularly pleased to see that the EMA is recommending against use of fluoroquinolones for treatment of chronic prostatitis. Too many men have been severely injured by fluoroquinolones given to them for treatment of non-bacterial prostatitis, a condition for which fluoroquinolones are no better than a placebo.

It is also wonderful to see that the EMA is recommending against the prescription fo fluoroquinolones for prevention of traveller’s diarrhea/diarrhoea. No one should ever be prescribed a drug as dangerous and consequential as fluoroquinolones “just in case” they get traveller’s diarrhea.

“Importantly, fluoroquinolones should generally be avoided in patients who have previously had serious side effects with a fluoroquinolone or quinolone antibiotic. They should be used with special caution in the elderly, patients with kidney disease and those who have had an organ transplantation because these patients are at a higher risk of tendon injury. Since the use of a corticosteroid with a fluoroquinolone also increases this risk, combined use of these medicines should be avoided.”

Yes – exactly – fluoroquinolones should be avoided in people who have previously experienced side-effects from fluoroquinolones. More information about that can be found in “The Next Time Will be Worse: Cross-Reactivity of Fluoroquinolones.”

I would say that fluoroquinolones should never be used on patients who are elderly, who have kidney disease, or who have had an organ transplant, but use “with special caution” is a step in the right direction.

“The CHMP opinion will now be forwarded to the European Commission, which will issue a final legally binding decision applicable in all EU countries. National authorities will enforce this decision for the fluoroquinolone and quinolone medicines authorised in their countries and they will also take other appropriate measures to promote the correct use of these antibiotics.”

Stay tuned. I’ll highlight the final decision made by the EMA once it is published.

The EMA press release, “Disabling and potentially permanent side effects lead to suspension or restrictions of quinolone and fluoroquinolone antibiotics” also contains the following guidance for patients:

Information for patients

  • Fluoroquinolone medicines (which contain ciprofloxacin, levofloxacin, lomefloxacin, moxifloxacin, norfloxacin, ofloxacin, pefloxacin, prulifloxacin and rufloxacin) can cause long-lasting, disabling and potentially permanent side effects involving tendons, muscles, joints and the nervous system.
  • These serious side effects include inflamed or torn tendon, muscle pain or weakness, and joint pain or swelling, walking difficulty, feeling pins and needles, burning pain, tiredness, depression, problems with memory, sleeping, vision and hearing, and altered taste and smell.
  • Tendon swelling and injury may occur within 2 days of starting treatment with a fluoroquinolone but may even occur several months after stopping treatment.
  • Stop taking a fluoroquinolone medicine and contact your doctor at once in the following cases:
    • at the first sign of tendon injury, such as tendon pain or swelling – rest the painful area;
    • if you get pain, feel pins and needles, tingling, tickling, numbness or burning, or weakness especially in the legs or arms;
    • if you get swelling in the shoulder, arms or legs, have walking difficulty, feel tired or depressed or have problems with your memory or with sleeping or you notice changes with your vision, taste, smell or hearing. You and your doctor will decide if you can continue treatment or if you need to take another type of antibiotic.
  • You may be more prone to joint pain or swelling or tendon damage if you are aged over 60 years, your kidneys do not work well or you have received organ transplantation.
  • Speak with your doctor if you are taking a corticosteroid (medicines such as hydrocortisone and prednisolone) or need to have treatment with a corticosteroid. You may be especially prone to tendon damage if you are taking a corticosteroid and a fluoroquinolone medicine at the same time.
  • You should not take a fluoroquinolone medicine if you have ever had a serious side effect with a fluoroquinolone or a quinolone medicine and you should speak with your doctor immediately.
  • If you have any questions or concerns about your medicines, speak to your doctor or pharmacist.

And it also contains the following guidance for prescribers:

Information for healthcare professionals

  • Fluoroquinolones are associated with prolonged (up to months or years), serious, disabling and potentially irreversible drug reactions affecting several, sometimes multiple, systems, organ classes and senses.
  • The serious side effects include tendonitis, tendon rupture, arthralgia, pain in extremities, gait disturbance, neuropathies associated with paraesthesia, depression, fatigue, memory impairment, sleep disorders, and impaired hearing, vision, taste and smell.
  • Tendon damage (especially to Achilles tendon but also other tendons) can occur within 48 hours of starting fluoroquinolone treatment but the damage may be delayed several months after stopping treatment.
  • Patients who are older, have renal impairment or have had solid organ transplantation and those being treated with a corticosteroid are at higher risk of tendon damage. Concomitant treatment with a fluoroquinolone and a corticosteroid should be avoided.
  • Fluoroquinolone treatment should be discontinued at the first sign of tendon pain or inflammation and patients should be advised to stop treatment with a fluoroquinolone and speak with the doctor in case of symptoms of neuropathy such as pain, burning, tingling, numbness or weakness so as to prevent development of potentially irreversible condition.
  • Fluoroquinolones should generally not be used in patients who have had serious adverse reactionsassociated with the use of quinolone or fluoroquinolone medicines.
  • Up-to-date summary of product characteristics should be consulted for authorised indications when considering treatment with a fluoroquinolone medicine. This is because the indications for these medicines have been restricted.
  • The benefits and risks of fluoroquinolones will be monitored continuously and a drug utilisation study will evaluate the effectiveness of the new measures to reduce inappropriate use of fluoroquinolones by investigating changes in prescribing behaviour.

Healthcare providers should also be informed that there is no known cure or remedy for fluoroquinolone toxicity, and that the effects of these drugs can be permanent.

This information should also be given to patients.

Overall, I’m pleased with the CHMP recommendations, and I’m hopeful that the final, binding ruling from the EMA is as strongly worded, and even more comprehensive.

*****

The Loss of a Loved Community Member

The “floxie” community lost a wonderful person last week. His name is Marc Thavenot, and Levaquin killed him. Mark struggled with fluoroquinolone toxicity for three years. He fought for his life every day of those three years. However, in November 2018 he lost his battle.

Officially, his cause of death was suicide. But the truth of his situation is much more complicated than the simple label of “suicide.” I suppose that all suicides have more to them than simply someone taking his or her own life. There is always a back-story.

Marc’s back-story is that he was tortured by a combination of fluoroquinolone toxicity (Levaquin), benzodiazepine damage, and Lyme Disease. On his web site he described his situation:

“In October 2015 after I had a fall and broke my hand i was put on a drug called Valium which is a benzodiazepine for anxiety and insomnia. Then 3 weeks later I was given an antibiotic called Levaquin for what the doctor thought was a stubborn ear infection. Little did I know that not only are these two drugs dangerous by themselves but are contraindicated when given together and risk for toxicity goes up tremendously. Upon taking the second dose of Levaquin, day number 2, I awoke at 4am with the most terrifying symptoms one can imagine. I felt the most horrific impeding doom, burning all over, ringing in my ears, blurry vision, panic, anxiety and fear unlike anything i could have ever imagine. For the next couple weeks these symptoms persisted along with the most brutal insomnia one can imagine with no sleep for days on end. Having already been dealing with having Cerebral Palsy my entire life this was just life shattering yet I had no idea what was yet to come. A couple months of this and things began to get worse with hallucinations, blood pressure spikes, body temperature deregulation, bone pain, shortness of breath, adrenal crashes, immune system crashing, GI problems, food sensitivities, rashes, teeth pain. It was just absolute hell everyday and i was completely unable to function and no doctor could figure out what was wrong.”

For three years Marc dealt with these issues and more. One of the more devastating symptoms that Marc dealt with was tinnitus that ruined his ability to do his job as a music producer and sound engineer.

Marc tried many things that he hoped would help his situation. Tragically, none of the things he tried cured his fluoroquinolone toxicity, benzodiazepine damage, or Lyme disease.

Perhaps with more time some of his symptoms would have faded, or maybe a cure for fluoroquinolone toxicity, benzodiazepine damage, or Lyme disease would have been found. Perhaps the thing that would have helped Marc to turn a corner toward healing would have come in a few more months, or a few more years. Tragically, we won’t know if solutions would have come to Marc. His time here is over, and that is so, so, so horribly sad.

Like many, maybe most, people, I struggle to find the right words to say both to a person who is suicidal and about a person who has committed suicide. I am not equipped emotionally, nor do I have the right training professionally, to say the “right” things to/about people who are suicidal. So, I have steered away from the topic, and suggested that people reach out to suicide prevention hotlines and mental health professionals. I still suggest both of those things. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline can be accessed through http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ and 1-800-273-8255. The people who answer the Hotline calls have tools and resources to help steer people away from suicide, and I hope that people use the Hotline as a resource. However, I’m bothered by my own suggestion that suicidal people “reach out.” I’m bothered by the suggestion because Marc DID reach out. He reached out to to many of us in the floxie community, including me. He asked questions and he sought advice, and he was given guidance to the best of our ability. But nothing helped, and his health continued to decline until he couldn’t take the pain any longer. Now he’s gone. I wish I had done more to help Marc. I wish I had known the right thing to say to him, or the right advice to give him that could have possibly shifted his path. I wish he was still here.

I know that there are others in the floxed community who feel guilt over not “doing more” to help Marc. I’m sure that you all did what you could. I did. But I wish I had done more, and I feel bad about not doing…. I don’t know…. more. But as a friend pointed out, why are we feeling guilt while the people who gave Marc the drugs that killed him feel no guilt or remorse about their role? The pharmaceutical company creators of Levaquin, the FDA (or the equivalent on Trinidad and Tobago), the doctors, etc. played an active role in poisoning Marc, but most of them have no idea, and they feel no guilt, while we do, and Marc is gone.

I hope that Marc’s family and friends know that the thoughts and prayers of many people throughout the world who “knew” Marc through the fluoroquinolone poisoned community are with him and them. He was clearly loved, and he is missed.

Levaquin, benzodiazepines, and Lyme disease killed Marc. He was tortured by the illnesses brought on by these pharmaceuticals for years, and I can’t say that I don’t understand how they could lead to his suicide. But, with all the love and respect in the world to Marc and his loved ones, can I please encourage all my floxed friends reading this to not go down the same path? Death is permanent. With death there is no hope or chance of healing. For every day that you are alive, there is a chance that healing will occur. There is the chance that discoveries will be made that will lead to cures. There is a chance that your body will cross a threshold toward healing. There is a chance of joy. There is a chance of love. There is life. There is hope.

I hope for strength for each of you. I hope that you get through fluoroquinolone toxicity. I hope that your body, mind, and spirit heal. I hope that you maintain hope, and that tomorrow (or the next day, or the day after that) brings the healing that you are hoping for.

I hope that Marc’s loved ones know that he touched the lives of many people throughout the world. He is missed, and our community is in mourning.

*****

Marc’s friend Nicholas asked me to share this message. It includes Marc’s last message.

Marco and I were friends since we met in 1999, best friends since 2002. We had a business together and we helped each other through some tough times and eventually, unwillingly, we were forced to dissolve the business for economic reasons and a shift in the landscape of home studios. It wasn’t easy. We had our differences of opinion and that coupled with other developments in my own life caused us to grow distant for a while though we frequently spoke via phone and message. We overcame our differences, our defunct business, and leaned on each other again and became brothers.

Over the last 3.5 years of him suffering we visited when we could, but spoke at least 3 or 4 times a week minimum for 30 mins to 3 hrs depending on how he was feeling. During the last 2 months, we spoke every day. I am recovering from my own issues, and I always hoped that he was doing the same, but it never came to pass.

Most people couldn’t endure watching him suffer. It was my honour to do so and help him through it, but to all who feel a ‘how’ just know, he understood. He often lamented that all those that surrounded him before had disappeared, but he knew how hard it was to watch someone suffer. He held no grudges.

Above all he wanted me to pass on this message so that people could know what he went through, what this drug, this dangerous ‘last resort only’ drug that is still treated like it was Panadol, did to him.

He was suffering from brain fog, which will be evident in his writing. I think it brings the message home with greater strength…

Marc’s words:

I wanted to write to you to thank you for all that you have done. Not once did I think that you didn’t do everything possible for my well being

The more I understand of my situation the more I realize I’m stuck in a very complicated viscous cycle. Iv just had a lot of trauma in my life that Iv struggled to let go of and it’s not because I have not tried but because it’s trsuma I have to relive everyday from young I was in pain and it was a physical and emotional struggle to do simple daily tasks even though I didn’t show it I certainly felt and I kept strong and pushed through. This built up trauma eventually weakens ones immune system and emotional health which I why I struggled so much with depresseion even though I didn’t show it as much

My accident breaking my hand was another trauma that started the ball rolling and then having surgery introduced anesthesia that also did not help the situation. Then came the final blow the levaquin which obviously damaged me in very serious ways I’ll never know for sure but I know was never the same after taking that drug.

I cannot begin to describe pain Iv felt everyday with having to live with CP. it was agony that existed both emotionally and physically. Then getting floxed and experiencing absolute nightmare symptoms daily And then to have so much taken away and have having fought to heal only to get worse and relapse due to who knows what. Fq toxicity is no joke and it has been just too much for me to deal with I have no life. This is not living.

Everyday since since I took that drug levaquin iv felt unattached, like my Head was filled with cotton and I couldn’t focus. every bit of sleep I got which was minimal I woke up to me extremities feeling like they were being crushed and burning. The main symptoms that were horrific with adrenal surges and BP spikesc of 210/110. Then it would drop to low 90/50. I have internal vibration that felt like if I was hooked up to a low voltage shocking station. I have severed moods swings with crying fits for no reason, my body felt heavy like someone filled me with lead. I feel completely exhausted but couldn’t sleep because i felt this pressure in my back my head that squeezed my head almost like if I had a parasite octoputus like thing in my head. Everyday I have severe abdominal pains that would feel like someone stabbing me with a knife. My mid and lower back would ache feel tense. I had several parts of my body feel numb and go completely week on a daily basic. My teeth would ache everyday. My jaw would be tense. My ears suffered horrible as they would be extremely sensitive to sound and burn life fire inside. I have nerve pain all over my body . I have stabbing bone pains in shins and arms. My vision is double blurry and not what It was. My chest feels like someone sucker punched me in the soloplexus. I have skin burning all over which feel so bad sometimes even taking a shower hurts. I feel like I’m out of my body with extreme brain brain fog fatigue and pressure all over my body and when I push to do anything I feel pressure all over my body with fatigues like some sucking energy out of me get worse. fingernails hurt and have arthritis like symptoms that make it hard to type play guitar etc. I have severe digestive issues with bloating constipation food intolerances. I can’t tolerate the sun or groups of people which makes going out or liming with friends almost impossible. My ears click with damaged euststion tubes so I hear things louder and sounds like resting a glass down on a table or a speaker phone would hurt my ears and I would hear audible distortion in my ears if I tried listening to music even at very low levels. All of these symptoms and more iv have endured from the day I took those pills. It’s now over 3 years and I still experience all of them in groups randomly everyday. Lack of sleep and depression have been a huge challenge as iv been not able to work feel joy do daily activities etc. fq toxicity is no joke and it ruins lives. Iv had countless doctors tell me it’s in my head it’s anxiety disorder. Bullshit. Cause after 2.5 years of hell I went on to antianxiety medication which barely helped. Except I feel more sedated but still can’t sleep. Fq toxicity can include damage of receptors in the brain that are responsible for managing our neurotransmitters. It can cause dna damage. Vegus nerve damage. Totally destroy your microbiome. Damage to mitochondria which is your main cells Responsable for energy production. It can damage immune function and send you body into extreme fight or flight which it did for me. Allowing infections viruses etc to wreck havoc as they have the oppertunity. After extensive testing in my journey to try and heal. I’m positive for Lyme , babesia , Scarlett fever, ebstein bar, cmv, herpes hsv 1 7 and 8, hpv. Rubella and a collection of parasites. What I did find out was I didn’t get my cerebral palsy from lack of oxygen at birth which usually leads to full body defects and speech problems. I had a different cp which is common with cmv virus infection in the nervous system. This would explain all my life I struggled with being unable to relax and have an easy time with relationships because my nervous system was compromised. It was difficult for me to be social. Well thing is the levaquin I took activated that virus and made it much worse along with everything I mentioned above so my cp got worse I now I’m forced to walk in crutches. Fq toxicity damages cyp450 liver engine pathways which responsable for metabolizing herbs drugs etc. no longer can I take pain killers thc or several other things that could have helped ease my suffering. This has affected me greatly as it’s affected my detox pathways and left me unable to detox like a normal person. Which creates a very toxic environment in your body which leads to more symptoms due to leaky gut and poor methylation.
These are things doctors are commonly unaware of and is why Iv had no real help because there really is no solution to what iv been going through. After 3 years and I’m actually worse off now after everything I’ve tried I really don’t know what else to do. All I know is life is absolute torture everyday and a struggle and I never knew someone could feel so bad. Only one who has experienced this could ever possibly get it.

I want everyone to know that there is so much more to what’s was going on with me that I would take a lifetime to explain. But the pain and torture that I go through nigh and day over and over again is just too much for one to endure. So please if your reading this don’t be angry or mad or sad or hurt because you think Iv done a bad thing. Know that I’m free of the worse pain and torture that I could ever imagine and please feel a sense of ease knowing that I no longer suffer. I know I’m my heart that my soul is in a beautiful place. And that it was just stuck in a sick body.

Fluoroquinolone Toxicity Awareness Friday

Today, Friday November 9th 2018, is the first Fluoroquinolone Toxicity Awareness Friday. Please join me, and other fluoroquinolone toxicity awareness advocates, in spreading the news far and wide about the dangers of fluoroquinolones, and the devastation and destruction that fluoroquinolones have brought to too many lives.

Mark A Girard, fellow fluoroquinolone victim and advocate, posted this on his Facebook page(s):

Please join in as we do all sorts of things to raise awareness about FQs. We chose the final Friday before Antibiotic Awareness Week (Nov 12-19) so that people remember what they saw or read or heard when they see something else about antibiotics in the media. This is a genuine grass roots effort to get the help we need and deserve and to prevent others from suffering similar damage. We are hoping people will reach out to the media, to government agencies, to their friends and families and so on. We will be discussing all sorts of things people can do and of course everyone is encouraged to contribute in their own unique ways. Use your skills and your imagination and help us to build an annual tradition that makes a difference in more people’s lives each November. If you want, you can continue with awareness efforts all week long with me, but we are hoping to get something going where we all do something on Friday, whether it is to tell your story on your timeline or to share a favourite article, newscast or meme. It’s a Horton Hears a Who situation so please take some time and add your voice to the shouting and maybe they will finally hear us loud and clear. Thanks!

Please feel free to copy and paste it into your status, or, if you’re Facebook friends with Mark, please share it. Or you can let your friends and family know about Fluoroquinolone Toxicity Awareness Friday by sharing this post.

Some suggested things to share are:

  1. Amy Moser’s VIRAL post, “This Antibiotic Will Ruin You
  2. Popular and influential news story – CBS Los Angeles, “Southland Firefighter Says Popular Antibiotic Poisoned His Body, His Life
  3. Popular and influential news story – WSB TV 2 Atlanta, “Local woman says popular antibiotic killed her husband
  4. In-depth investigative report – PBS Frontline Investigation, “Certain Antibiotics Spur Widening Reports of Severe Side Effects
  5. News story out of Europe – Daily Mail, “Antibiotics got rid of her chest infection – but Jane says they destroyed her health
  6. Story in the well-respected journal, Nature, “When antibiotics turn toxic
  7. New York Times column, “Popular Antibiotics May Carry Serious Side Effects
  8. Popular post on Floxie Hope, “FDA Announces that Permanent Peripheral Neuropathy is to be Added to Warning Labels for Fluoroquinolone Antibiotics
  9. Popular post on Floxie Hope, “New Study Finds that Ciprofloxacin Depletes Mitochondrial DNA
  10. Popular post on Floxie Hope, “Letter from Bayer to Doctors Regarding Cipro and Avelox

There are links to hundreds of other articles and news stories on the “Links & Resources” page of this site.

Please share these, and anything else that brings attention to the devastating effects of fluoroquinolones, on social media, with your friends and family, with influential news organizations, with politicians, etc. Get the news out far and wide – THANK YOU!

*****