In Stephen Fried’s 1994 Washington Post article, Prescription for Disaster, Fried describes his wife Diane’s terrifying reaction to Floxin (ofloxacin), a fluoroquinolone antibiotic. It’s a wonderful, award-winning article on which Fried’s follow-up book, Bitter Pills: Inside the Hazardous World of Legal Drugs, was based. I highly recommend that you read both the article and the book.
This quote from Prescription for Disaster summarizes both well:
“Before Diane’s frightening experience, I had always thought of prescription drugs as pretty much idiot-proof. Your doctor tells you to take them, so you do, assuming that the worst that can happen is they won’t work. It turns out the worst that can happen is that you drop dead. The next worst is that your body is permanently damaged. Less worse, but still not very good, is that you suffer for hours, days or weeks with something your doctor may or may not recognize as a drug reaction — from one drug or an interaction. It may or may not go away by itself.”
Though both Prescription for Disaster and Bitter Pills are about the hazards of prescription drugs generally, both have quite a bit of information about fluoroquinolone toxicity, and Diane’s personal story of a severe CNS adverse reaction to Floxin is discussed in-depth.
In Prescription for Disaster, Fried notes:
“I KEEP WANTING this story to end, but it never does. Late last year I got a call from a producer of Oprah Winfrey’s show. She wanted to do a program on adverse drug reactions because she had just had one — to Floxin. Diane and I appeared on the program, along with several other people we had met through the original article, and since then I’ve gotten a steady stream of calls. Many of them are from people who had almost the same reaction Diane did, but weren’t as lucky to have doctors who at least recognized a drug reaction and were willing to learn what they didn’t know about how to treat it. I’ve talked to people whose spouses have lost their careers in the aftermath of drug reactions, people whose fathers attempted suicide because of depression that seemed to have been triggered by quinolones.”
We all want this story to end. More than 22 years later (Prescription for Disaster was published in April, 1994), it is still going on. Thousands of people are hurt every year by fluoroquinolones. People are experiencing tendon ruptures that leave them in horrible pain, exhaustion that leaves them bed-bound, gastro-intestinal issues that leave them unable to eat, CNS issues that leave them unable to work, peripheral neuropathy that leaves them in permanent pain, and more. I sincerely hope that the story of people becoming chronically ill and disabled after taking Cipro, Levaquin, Avelox, Floxin, or their generic equivalents, ends soon. It’s not a good story, it would be nice if it ended sooner rather than later.
For anyone who thinks that the FQ ADR’s are something new, think again. It’s an old, old story, this one, which actually goes back much farther than 1994. But this article highlights how Pharma, FDA, flox victims, the ignorant and dismissive medical profession, even publicity on shows like GMA, Dateline, Donahue, and even Oprah — they were all there — it’s all happened before — way back in 1994. It’s all been completely ignored; and in fact, sales of FQ’s continued to increase and soar exponentially during the past 20 years. I, and who the hell knows how many others just like me, have been “floxed” since then. Had the FDA, Pharma, and the medical profession done their job back then, my life (and many others) might have been spared.
Don’t think Pharma or the FDA is just finding out about these ADR’s now. They’ve known. They’ve known for a very, very, long time. And they’ve done absolutely nothing about it.
So when you hear all the Pharma companies make their same old tired and outright spurious statements over and over again about how “Safety is our greatest concern, and these antibiotics have been prescribed safely for the last 20-30 years without problems,“ and the FDA says “We take these safety issues very seriously and are looking into it,“ you’ll know what bullshit that is. There is a historical record accumulating, and this article is just one example for you to post in rebuttal. Remember: the internet saves everything now. There will be less and less places for Pharma to hide as time goes on and the number of victims the world over continue to grow.
FQ’s are once again in the news. We can only hope that this time, it will be different.
Yes, we can hope that this time will be different. We need to stay vigilant though, and continually push, so that the pharmaceutical companies, the FDA, and even many doctors and nurses cannot get away with the lies of, “Fluoroquinolones have an excellent record of safety and efficacy,” and, “Side-effects are rare,” and, “There is no known mechanism for fluoroquinolones to cause multi-symptom, chronic disease,” and, “Multi-symptom, chronic diseases are in patient’s heads – they don’t really exist,” and, “Fluoroquinolones aren’t connected with autoimmune diseases, fibromyalgia, ME/CFS, POTS, arthritis, psychiatric illnesses, thyroid autoimmune diseases, etc.” Those lies have been told over and over again since fluoroquinolones first entered the market in the 1980s. Repetition doesn’t make them true, but it sure helps to reinforce the lie.
There is plenty of evidence that fluoroquinolones are dangerous, destructive drugs that can lead to chronic illness and disability for many. There is also evidence that the mitochondrial destruction done by fluoroquinolones is similar to that of mitochondrial destruction found in people with autoimmune and other “mysterious” diseases. The evidence isn’t even new. They’ve known since 1994 that these drugs are damaging to the point of being disabling. They know, they just choose not to do anything meaningful about it. It is possible to put meaningful restrictions on dangerous drugs that ensure that they are only used when appropriate (in life-or-death situations) and that proper informed consent is given before the drugs are administered. Rather than making these meaningful changes though, the FDA and the pharmaceutical companies have chosen to largely ignore the problem.
Everyone who has gotten “floxed” since 1994 has been hurt because of willful ignorance on the part of the FDA. They claim, over and over again, that these reactions are new, and that they’re just now hearing about them. I realize that news sinks in slowly in a bureaucratic institution like the FDA, but 22 years is ridiculous and, frankly, unacceptable. They knew that these drugs were dangerous then, because people told them back then. They know that these drugs are dangerous now, because people have told them again. Research has also accumulated since 1994, and there are hundreds, if not thousands, of articles about the dangerous effects of fluoroquinolones published in journals (here’s a sampling of just a few – https://floxiehope.com/fluoroquinolones-links-resources/).
When is this going to stop? When will the FDA start doing it’s job and adequately regulating these dangerous drugs? How many more people have to get hurt by fluoroquinolones? How many more times do we have to scream at them and tell them what they already know – what they have known for more than 22 years – that fluoroquinolone adverse reactions are severe and devastating? It’s ridiculous. This mess should have been stopped 22 years ago. The FDA should have made meaningful changes to prescription guidelines for fluoroquinolones in the 1990s. If not then, they should have done so in 2008 when Public Citizen sued the FDA in order to get the black box warning about tendon ruptures added to the fluoroquinolone warning labels. Since meaningful reform didn’t happen then, how about now? The FDA just had a hearing about the risks of fluoroquinolones, and found that the risks outweigh the benefits in treatment for many common infections. They have the opportunity to enact meaningful change now, and they should do so.
I doubt that they will make meaningful, appropriate changes though. Business will go on as usual. People will continue to be hurt by fluoroquinolones. People who should know better (FDA personnel, Pharma scientists, doctors, etc.) will insist on saying that these adverse-reactions are rare, and thus insignificant and untrue. It’s a shame, because they are incorrect. These adverse reactions are severe, devastating, and not near as rare as they should be.
So… we have to keep screaming. We have to keep telling the news media about our reactions, writing to anyone who might listen, filing reports with the FDA, writing articles and blog posts, petitioning scientists, talking to friends, sharing articles, etc. We have to keep banging the drum until they listen.
I’m not sure how long this process will take. It’s been 22 years since Prescription for Disaster was published. I hope that it doesn’t take 22 more.