Consumer Reports: Fluoroquinolone Overprescribing “Rampant”
Consumer Reports recently ran an article shining a spotlight on the tendency of doctors to prescribe powerful fluoroquinolone antibiotics such as Levaquin and Avelox for relatively minor problems such as sinus infections. As a result, many people have suffered severe complications that, in some instances, are permanent.
The article focused on three routine illnesses – urinary tract infections, sinus infections and bronchitis – for which fluoroquinolones are prescribed on a regular basis. According to Consumer Reports, nearly one-third of all fluoroquinolones prescribed outside of U.S. hospitals are for these three ailments. The problem is that fluoroquinolones are meant to treat much more severe illness, such as anthrax.
In November, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) panel stated that the benefits of fluoroquinolones for first-line treatment of minor illnesses are far outweighed by the risks of side effects. One of these side effects is peripheral neuropathy, a condition where nerve damage can cause tingling and numbness in the extremities. The panel recommended that the FDA should strengthen current warnings and provide clear guidance as to when fluoroquinolones should and should not be used.
There are much safer alternatives to fluoroquinolones when it comes to sinus infections, urinary tract infections and bronchitis, as pointed out by the article. Here’s what Consumer Reports medical experts recommend people should do instead.
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- Sinus infections – Since most sinus infections are caused by viruses, fluoroquinolones won’t even work. Even in cases where bacteria do cause an infection, it will usually clear up on its own after about a week. If symptoms last longer, according to the article, then a milder antibiotic such as amoxicillin could be helpful.
- Urinary tract infections (UTI) – Fluoroquinolones, according to the article, should only be used to treat a UTI when it either spreads to the kidneys or has shown resistance to less powerful antibiotics.
- Bronchitis – Like sinus infections, bronchitis is usually caused by a virus, not bacteria. Sometimes, however, antibiotics can help people with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) if their symptoms get to the point they need to be hospitalized.