Fluoroquinolones: what side effects? Serious risks?

Several complaints have been filed by patients who have been prescribed fluoroquinolones.

Fluoroquinolones: what side effects? Serious risks?

Several complaints have been filed by patients who have been prescribed fluoroquinolones. They believe that this drug caused the appearance of significant side effects. But what are they?

Are we headed for another drug scandal to come to light? This Monday, March 13, 2023, Franceinfo reveals that several complaints have been filed against doctors by a dozen patients to whom fluoroquinolones have been prescribed. Serious adverse effects would have appeared after taking this antibiotic, which mainly comes in the form of a conventional tablet. The Paris public health center and the Versailles prosecutor's office were the recipients of these complaints. At this stage, no investigation has yet been formally opened by the courts. But while only a few complaints have been filed among the six million prescriptions in four years, what are the real risks associated with this drug? Is taking this antibiotic dangerous?

The root of the problem related to fluoroquinolones is not so much the drug itself but its all-out prescription, or almost. According to the European Medicines Agency, two-thirds of prescriptions made in France are for indications not covered by the established recommendations for this antibiotic. Only in specific cases can the drug be administered. Doctors would have gone beyond these recommendations, not without consequences.

As with any medication, taking fluoroquinolone can cause side effects. The National Agency for the Safety of Medicines and Health Products (ANSM) lists several, some of which may be linked to the pre-existence, by family history, of a risk of development of the side effect. This is particularly the case for heart problems that can result from taking the antibiotic. Palpitations or irregular or even rapid heartbeats may occur, as may severe pain in the abdomen, chest or back. The elderly are the most vulnerable to this risk. In addition, shortness of breath when lying down as well as swelling of the ankles, feet or abdomen may appear, mainly in patients already affected by heart valve disease.

Other phenomena have also been identified after taking fluoroquinolone: ​​tendon lesions, both in the shoulders, elbows, knees and hips; burning, tingling, tingling or numbness in the hands and feet; skin reactions in the event of exposure to the sun and even some sensory or behavioral disorders.

The onset of side effects can take place as early as 48 hours after taking the drug according to the ANSM. But they may also only appear several months later. Painful swelling of tendons or joints, unusual pain and/or weakness in the arms or legs, palpitations or feelings of irregular or rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, swelling of the legs, decreased vision or appearance of any other eye disorder, redness, irritation or itching of the skin, especially after exposure to the sun or artificial UV radiation may be signs of triggering side effects. It is therefore strongly recommended to contact your doctor as soon as possible. In addition, the onset of abdominal pain, chest or back sudden and intense requires to go immediately to the emergency department of a hospital.