What your doctor may not be telling you about the antibiotics he prescribes

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Last year I went to the doctor at an after hours clinic for a kidney infection.  I don’t get sick very often so this was very out of the blue.  The doctor did all the standard tests they do to confirm a kidney infection and then also had me provide a urine sample.  Since the sample takes a few days and the physical tests lead to a kidney infection (fever, nausea and pain in the lower haunches), he gave me a shot and sent me off with a prescription for an antibiotic.  I want to say that I rarely go to the doctor, as I am rarely if ever sick.   I didn’t really give the prescription any thought, since I knew that I had an infection and I knew it needed to be taken care of.  I filled it and took it for about 7 days of the 10 days prescribed.

At around the 7th day, I was on the phone with my mom who asked me if I had researched the antibiotic.  I explained that I had looked it up on my phone when I was at the doctor’s office.  My mom asked me to please research the antibiotic in more detail, which I found odd, since she has been on her share of antibiotics and my preliminary search didn’t bring up anything to be concerned about.  As I thought about it I realized my mom was right and that normally I would have done more research than just checking the first page of Google.  My mom explained that it wasn’t an antibiotic she had heard of before and this concerned her. So, I did another search for “Ciprofloxacin”, but instead of only looking for the name itself, I added the word “safety”.  At that moment, when seeing pages like www.ciproispoison.com, I realized that the doctor failed to tell me some very important information about the medication he had given me.

Ciprofloxacin is a synthetic antibiotic, referred to as Fluoroquinolones.  In short, it includes a fluorine atom, making it a fluoride based medication.  Ciprofloxacin has been prescribed for those who have been exposed to Anthrax.  It is also used to treat serious upper respiratory tract infections.  The fact that this was prescribed for a kidney infection is very concerning as a kidney infection is nothing close to Anthrax exposure!  I did more research and found that some of the side effects of Fluoroquinolones, including Ciprofloxacin are[1]:

  • Tendinitis or Tendon Rupture (in all ages)
  • Fever
  • Rash
  • Hepatitis, jaundice, acute hepatic necrosis or failure
  • Anemia
  • Thoughts about dying or killing yourself
  • Nerve damage that may not go away even after you stop taking it

Now, I understand that bacterial infections have become resistant due to the overuse of antibiotics in our food as well as over prescription antibiotics by physicians, but something else my doctor and the pharmacist failed to tell me (besides the above list of possible serious problems) was that Ciprofloxacin has been issued a Black Box Warning by the FDA[2].  A black box warning is the strongest type of warning given by the FDA, and is one step below pulling the medication from the market.  Doctors should be treating it as a last resort option, but a majority of them are handing it out like candy.

The next day, I called the after hours office that treated me.  I ended up getting into an argument with them regarding the fact that the doctor on duty prescribed a medication that could have caused tendon issues as well as suicidal thoughts.  Their response was that Ciprofloxacin is the first thing they always prescribe for a kidney infection, mainly because of antibiotic resistance.  She said that my results had come back and that they still felt that Ciprofloxacin was the best option, even though there was another option that didn’t include a black box warning and would have worked.

I then called my primary care physician who did say that he would also normally prescribe this as a first option, but as he is familiar with my caution regarding all medications we would have discussed the pros and cons of this medication and my other options.  I asked him what I should do, as I had taken more than half of the medication.  He said at this point he would be comfortable with discontinuing usage and just monitoring how I felt.

Eventually, I chose to read more information from the websites listed below.  I have read so many stories from those who have had very bad experiences with Ciprofloxacin and other Fluoroquinolones.  The stories are heartbreaking and frustrating as many people had the same experience of not being warned and not being given other options, but ending up with debilitating results.  With some of the people having used fluoroquinolones multiple times and then having it turn on them (what they refer to as a ticking time bomb), while others were in perfect health, used it once and ended up bedridden.  My research did lead me to some ways to combat the potential effects, such as increasing my magnesium intake (something that the pharmacist did tell me to avoid while on the medication), drinking water that has been filtered for fluoride and adding apple cider vinegar to help cleanse the medication from my system.  From personal experience (I am not a doctor, so use this advice at your own risk) I found that drinking warm water with baking soda at the first sign kidney pain has staved off any potential kidney infections.

Ultimately, I’ve been very lucky.  It has been almost a year and I haven’t had any serious issues.  The biggest lesson I have learned though is to make sure to thoroughly research the medications prescribed to you and to ask your doctor for alternatives if you feel that the benefits do not outweigh the risks.

This article only scratches the surface regarding Fluoroquinolones.  If you have taken a Fluoroquinolone, or would like to know more about this class of antibiotics, here are some great resources and articles to get you started:

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