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Julie Hambleton
Julie Hambleton
March 27, 2024 ·  4 min read

This Common Medication Could Lead to Irreversible Health Conditions

In recent years, fluoroquinolones have become a subject of mounting concern in the medical community. This is because of their (somewhat recent) association with severe and potentially irreversible health conditions. Once hailed as a breakthrough in antibiotic therapy, these medications are now under scrutiny for the devastating side effects they can cause. This article aims to provide an up-to-date analysis of fluoroquinolones, shedding light on their side effects, the tragedies they have caused, and the efforts being made to curb the associated risks.

Understanding Fluoroquinolones

Fluoroquinolones are a class of antibiotics commonly prescribed for the treatment of various bacterial infections such as respiratory, urinary tract, and skin infections. They work by inhibiting the enzymes required for bacterial DNA synthesis, effectively stopping the growth and replication of bacteria. (1)

The Dark Side: Severe Side Effects

While fluoroquinolones have proven effective in combating infections, their side effect profile has caused widespread concern among both patients and healthcare professionals. Some of the commonly observed side effects associated with fluoroquinolones include:

  1. Tendon Rupture: Perhaps one of the most alarming side effects is the increased risk of tendon ruptures, especially in the Achilles tendon. This risk is particularly prevalent in older adults and those who engage in strenuous physical activities.
  2. Peripheral Neuropathy: Fluoroquinolones have been linked to an increased risk of peripheral neuropathy—nerve damage resulting in pain, numbness, or weakness in the extremities. This condition can lead to significant impairment in daily functioning and quality of life.
  3. Cardiovascular Complications: Recent studies have suggested a potential association between fluoroquinolone use and an increased risk of cardiovascular complications, including an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) and even heart attacks.
  4. Musculoskeletal Disorders: Additional musculoskeletal side effects of fluoroquinolones can include joint and muscle pain, exacerbation of existing conditions such as arthritis, and even the development of autoimmune disorders.

“They are brilliant drugs and they revolutionized healthcare when they were launched in the late 1980s,” says Philip Howard, antimicrobial stewardship lead at NHS England North East and Yorkshire. “Over that 30-year period, rare, but serious and potentially long-lasting, side effects have been evolving.” (2)

Read More: Top Drugs With Greater Health Risks for People Over 65

The devastating impact of fluoroquinolones on patients’ lives cannot be overstated. Numerous individuals have experienced life-altering consequences from the use of these drugs. Their stories, often accompanied by immense pain and suffering, have fueled legal battles against the manufacturers of fluoroquinolones. (3)

“As we’re learning more and more about these drugs, we’re also learning there are potentially more risks with them, but this needs to be balanced against their benefit,” says Howard.

Affected individuals have filed lawsuits claiming that they were not sufficiently warned about the potential risks associated with these medications. The growing number of legal cases and media attention have put fluoroquinolones in the spotlight, prompting regulatory agencies and healthcare professionals to address the issue urgently.

Regulatory Measures and Professional Guidelines

Recognizing the gravity of the situation, regulatory agencies have taken measures to mitigate the risks associated with fluoroquinolones. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued strong warnings and black box labels to draw attention to the potential adverse effects.

Additionally, professional organizations and guidelines have responded to the increasing concerns. The American Urological Association (AUA), for example, has published guidelines advising against the routine use of fluoroquinolones for uncomplicated urinary tract infections (UTIs) and other non-severe infections. This reflects a shift towards employing alternative antibiotics to minimize the risks. 

Safer Alternatives and Future Prospects

In light of the serious side effects associated with fluoroquinolones, healthcare professionals are now more cautious about prescribing them. The focus has shifted towards finding safer alternatives for the treatment of bacterial infections. This includes the exploration of new antibiotic classes, as well as a renewed emphasis on proper antibiotic stewardship to prevent misuse and reduce the need for fluoroquinolones. Still, the change has been slower than hoped. (4)

“Changing prescribing patterns is really hard because it needs a culture change,” says Elisha Zafar, specialist infection pharmacist at King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. “fluoroquinolones are good agents and cover quite a lot of organisms, but it is kind of a trade off when we’re talking about complex infections and the risk of using fluoroquinolones.”

Furthermore, research is ongoing to better understand the mechanisms underlying the adverse effects of fluoroquinolones. This knowledge could help develop strategies to reduce the risks or identify individuals more susceptible to adverse reactions. Ultimately, the aim is to balance the therapeutic benefits of fluoroquinolones and the potential risks they pose to patients.

The Bottom Line

Fluoroquinolones, once considered a breakthrough in antibiotic therapy, have now come under scrutiny due to their association with severe and potentially irreversible health conditions. The devastating side effects, including tendon ruptures, peripheral neuropathy, cardiovascular complications, and musculoskeletal disorders, have left many patients with long-lasting consequences. The tragedies caused by fluoroquinolones have spurred regulatory actions, professional guidelines, and ongoing research, all aimed at mitigating the risks and finding safer alternatives. As we continue to uncover the complexities of this class of antibiotics, it is crucial to strike a balance between their therapeutic benefits and the potential harm they can cause.

Read More: Antibiotics Weakening Against Bloodstream Infections That Kill Newborns


  1. Fluoroquinolones.” NCBI. March 10, 2020.
  2. Changing the culture of fluoroquinolone prescribing.” Pharmaceutical Journal. David Lipanovic. February 15, 2024.
  3. ‘Killer’ antibiotic that’s STILL being prescribed to 15m Americans a year: Widow of singer Bobby Caldwell reveals how pills he was prescribed for a COLD left him paralyzed and with ‘unbearable’ nerve damage – leading to his untimely death.” Daily Mail. Caitlin Tilley. March 4, 2024.
  4. GPs to only prescribe fluoroquinolone antibiotics as last resort, says MHRA.” Pulse Today. Anna Colivicchi. January 22, 2024.