“There is plenty of evidence that fluoroquinolones damage mitochondria, increase ROS (reactive oxygen species), deplete antioxidants, deplete iron, deplete magnesium, damage the microbiome, downgrade GABA, are endocrine disrupters, cause lysosomal disorders, form poisonous metabolites in the liver, activate mast cells, release histamine, and more.”[A]
A few months ago, my Vitality magazine article, “How to Survive Western Medicine,” discussed how drugs can deplete nutrients and create new symptoms, diseases, or even deaths. Nowhere is this seen more clearly than with a class of antibiotics known as the fluoroquinolones (FQ). While the incidence of side effects is purported to be low (4% to 8% according to some reports but higher in others), the most serious ones such as nerve damage, tendon ruptures, and death are not acceptable in otherwise healthy ambulatory individuals, as far as I’m concerned.
Both Health Canada and the American FDA have issued multiple warnings to doctors to reserve this class of antibiotics for serious or life-threatening infections only. So this would exclude most cases of prostatitis, bronchitis, middle ear infections, and sinusitis. Yet these warnings seem to have fallen on deaf ears. Unfortunately, fluoroquinolone antibiotics continue to be prescribed for extended use in cases of numerous types of infections that do not require them. In fact, fluoroquinolones are one of the most commonly prescribed classes of all antibiotics. And for some strange reason, their side effects are continuously being under-reported.
The fluoroquinolone family includes:
- Ciprofloxacin (Cipro)
- Levofloxacin (Levaquin)
- Gemifloxacin (Factive)
- Moxifloxacin (Avelox)
- Norfloxacin (Noroxin)
- Ofloxacin (Floxin)
Side Effects from Fluoroquinolones
The most serious adverse impacts caused by this family of antibiotics appear to effect the nervous system.
“Convulsions, increased intracranial pressure (including pseudotumour cerebri), and toxic psychosis have been reported in patients receiving fluoroquinolones, including ciprofloxacin.”
Other reported side effects include:
- Nervous system symptoms in 91% (pain, tingling and numbness, dizziness, malaise, weakness, headaches, anxiety and panic, loss of memory, psychosis, and permanent peripheral neuropathy);
- Musculoskeletal symptoms in 73% (tendon ruptures, tendonitis, weakness, joint swelling);
- Sensory symptoms in 42% (tinnitus, altered visual, olfactory, and auditory function);
- Cardiovascular symptoms in 36% (tachycardia, chest pain, palpitations, shortness of breath);
- Skin reactions in 29% (rashes, hair loss, sweating, intolerance to heat or cold);
- Gastrointestinal symptoms in 18% (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain);
- Increased risk of blood sugar problems (dysglycemia, meaning both high or low blood sugars), especially in diabetics;
- Creation of numerous antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria (super bugs).
Why are fluoroquinolones so damaging? The reason appears to be the presence of a fluoride molecule in the drug formula, that allows the drug to have better tissue penetration within numerous organs, including the brain. Thus it can penetrate the blood/brain barrier and more easily damage the central nervous system. Fluoride can also displace other minerals including iodine, essential for healthy thyroid function.
Fluoroquinolones are directly toxic to collagen synthesis and promote collagen degradation. By disrupting collagen synthesis, fluoride produces many signs and symptoms that either look like fibromyalgia or chronic tendon disease (inflammation and ruptures). By the way, other drugs that contain fluoride molecules include Prozac, Prevacid, and Dalmane.
Lawsuits Piling Up
“Also in 2010, Johnson & Johnson, makers of Levaquin, settled over 800 lawsuits out of 3,400 suits filed, charging that patients were not made aware of the dangers involving the drug, and paid out $1.8 million to one plaintiff who suffered tendon rupture.”[3b]
I am suspicious of the conventional medical pronouncements that the incidence of fluoroquinolone side effects is between 4% and 8%, especially considering that several thousand U.S. lawsuits have been filed annually since 2010 against the makers of Levaquin. Conventional doctors and drug-sponsored medical journals tend to minimize the health impact of drug side effects. Hopefully, this dismissive attitude will quickly vanish once Big Pharma and its supporters are confronted by even more lawsuits, as has happened with many other drugs in the past (Vioxx, Avandia). Unfortunately, it takes several years to ban killer drugs like Levaquin. (We just have to wait until the dead body counts are high enough.)
Just Google “fluoroquinolone lawsuits” and you will come up with multiple legal websites recruiting people for class action lawsuits involving fluoroquinolone side effects or deaths. For Levaquin, one of the stronger members of this antibiotic family, here is a list of its most common side effects:
Common side effects for Levaquin
- Retinal detachment, which can cause blindness
- Hallucinations; Psychotic reactions
- Nausea and diarrhea; Painful rashes
- Acute kidney failure; Acute liver toxicity
- Hearing problems; Brain fog
- Disruptions to blood sugar metabolism
- Depression; Phototoxicity; Peripheral neuropathy
By the way, Johnson & Johnson are no strangers to lawsuits. Most recently, they were found to be guilty and ordered to pay $417 million for evidence linking their baby talcum powder to ovarian cancer. The company has simply chalked up the fine to the cost of doing business. (They did not use any talcum powder in their chalk.)
Antibiotics in animals: If you needed a good reason to eat only organic, antibiotic-free meats, or avoid meat altogether, consider the fact that most conventional livestock (cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys) are fed fluoroquinolones to fatten them up. So the conventional meat and dairy products you consume will certainly contain this class of antibiotics. This is borne out by a CBS report showing that researchers found that many fast food chains function as bonafide antiobiotic dispensaries, serving up drug-laced meat to unsuspecting customers.
Antibiotic-resistant infections like methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE), and the potentially life-threatening diarrhea caused by Clostridium difficile (C. diff) are thought to be more likely with fluoroquinolones. This class of antibiotics, in fact, is the most important risk factor in developing Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea (CDAD).
What Can You Do?
“Too often the reason the drugs are overprescribed is because of aggressive marketing by drug reps and other people who push the newest drugs to physicians. That’s one contributing factor; the other is that physicians and other prescribers aren’t well informed.” – Michael Carome, director of Public Citizen’s Research Group 
The first and most important thing you should do when given an FQ prescription is educate your doctor. Your life, and the lives of many others on the other end of FQ prescriptions, depend on it.
“Really, I think the labels for all antibiotics should be strengthened to remind doctors and patients that when the drug is unwarranted, prescribing it has no benefit and exposes patients to needless risk, however small that risk may be,” said Lindsey R. Baden, MD. 
Before you fill that FQ antibiotic prescription, ask your doctor if he/she can prescribe something with a better side effect profile. Aside from all the the horrific side effects, fluoroquinolones can rob the body’s stores of calcium, magnesium, potassium, iodine, and iron as well as probiotics (the beneficial gut flora). If you must take these antibiotics for a serious infection, supplementing with these nutrients, magnesium in particular, can help reverse or prevent some of the long-term adverse reactions. Discuss supplementation with your natural health care provider.
Fluoroquinolones have damaged enough people to create a support group known as “Floxies”. Side effect victims, at least the ones that are still alive, say that they’ve been “floxed” or just plain “FQed.”
Read more about floxies: One more website, “Fluoroquinolone Wall of Pain” provides stories from people damaged by Cipro and other fluoroquinolones.
Dr. Zoltan P. Rona, MD, practises Complementary Medicine in Toronto and is the medical editor of The Encyclopedia of Natural Healing. He has also published several Canadian bestselling books, including Vitamin D: The Sunshine Vitamin. For more of his articles, visit: High Level Wellness and TriStar Naturals
For appointments, call (905) 764-8700; Office located at 390 Steeles Ave. W., Unit 19, Thornhill, Ontario.