Fluoroquinolone Antibiotics Receive New FDA Warnings

Jul 27, 2016

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved safety labeling changes for a class of antibiotics, called fluoroquinolones, to enhance warnings about their association with disabling and potentially permanent side effects and to limit their use in patients with less serious bacterial infections.

Fluoroquinolones are antibiotics that kill or stop the growth of bacteria. While these drugs are effective in treating serious bacterial infections, an FDA safety review found that both oral and injectable fluroquinolones are associated with disabling side effects involving tendons, muscles, joints, nerves and the central nervous system. These side effects can occur hours to weeks after exposure to fluoroquinolones and may potentially be permanent.

Because the risk of these serious side effects generally outweighs the benefits for patients with acute bacterial sinusitis, acute exacerbation of chronic bronchitis and uncomplicated urinary tract infections, the FDA has determined that fluoroquinolones should be reserved for use in patients with these conditions who have no alternative treatment options. For some serious bacterial infections, including anthrax, plague and bacterial pneumonia among others, the benefits of fluoroquinolones outweigh the risks and it is appropriate for them to remain available as a therapeutic option.

FDA-approved fluoroquinolones include levofloxacin (Levaquin), ciprofloxacin (Cipro), ciprofloxacin extended-release tablets, moxifloxacin (Avelox), ofloxacin and gemifloxacin (Factive). The labeling changes include an updated Boxed Warning and revisions to the Warnings and Precautions section of the label about the risk of disabling and potentially irreversible adverse reactions that can occur together. The label also contains new limitation-of-use statements to reserve fluoroquinolones for patients who do not have other available treatment options for acute bacterial sinusitis, acute bacterial exacerbation of chronic bronchitis and uncomplicated urinary tract infections. The patient Medication Guide that is required to be given to the patient with each fluoroquinolone prescription describes the safety issues associated with these medicines.

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