Levaquin, Cipro Tied To Deadly Aortic Aneurism

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Levaquin, Cipro Tied To Deadly Aortic Aneurism
Levaquin, Cipro Tied To Deadly Aortic Aneurism. Graphic © herbshealthhappiness.com. Photo © Shutterstock 1831964167 (under license)

Emerging evidence, including a statement by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), shows that widely-used antibiotics such as Levaquin, Cipro, and Avelox increase the risk of life-threatening damage to the aorta. These antibiotics belong to a class of drugs known as fluoroquinolones that have been under the review of the FDA for a couple of years. Read on for more about fluoroquinolones and the FDA’s stand regarding the drugs.

What Are Fluoroquinolones?

Fluoroquinolones are antibiotics used to remedy severe infections such as exposure to anthrax, urinary tract infections, and pneumonia, among other respiratory infections. They are administered orally, through injection, or inhalation through monikers such as ofloxacin (Floxin), norfloxacin (Noroxin), gemifloxacin (Factive), delafloxacin, levofloxacin, and moxifloxacin (Avelox), and Ciprofloxacin (Cipro). Fluoroquinolones work by inhibiting enzymes (DNA topoisomerase and gyrase) that are important for bacterial replication. But do their benefits outweigh the risks?

According to the European Medicines Agency [1], some of the risks and potential side effects of fluoroquinolones include tendon rupture, muscle weakness, memory problems, depression, tiredness, altered senses, pain, walking difficulties, and joint swelling.

FDA Cautions Against Fluoroquinolones

Over the last decade, the FDA has issued a series of warnings regarding the potential adverse effects of the drugs. The most recent announcement by U.S. regulatory body highlights the danger of two life-threatening aorta complications: aortic aneurysm and aortic dissection.

Specifically, aortic aneurysm occurs when the walls of the aorta weaken and bulge, while aortic dissection refers to the separation of layers within the aortic wall. As you can tell, both conditions are fatal since they interfere with the main vessel responsible for supplying oxygenated blood to the body. According to an article [2] appearing in JAMA Internal Medicine, the prevalence of aortic dissection and aneurysm has risen in the past decades – with the latter claiming over 15,000 death in the United States.

In a recent statement [3], FDA Commissioner, Dr. Scott Gottlieb noted that despite the risk of aortic aneurysm or dissection being low, they had noted that the risk of these conditions approximately doubled when fluoroquinolone drugs had been prescribed.” The organization went further to assert that fluoroquinolones should not be used when benefits do not outweigh the risks. In particular, patients with genetic conditions such as Marfan, a history of aorta blockages, high blood pressure, and the elderly are advised against using the drugs.

In light of the potential disabling adverse effects of fluoroquinolones, the FDA sent medication guides requiring manufacturers and medical practitioners to add a warning about the potential risks in the prescribing information. According to Gottlieb, “The FDA remains committed to keeping the risk information about these products current and comprehensive and will continue to update the public.” For more information on medication guides by the FDA, head over to their website and search one of the fluoroquinolones listed above – and if you fall into any of the risk categories, consult your doctor.


[1] Disabling and potentially permanent side effects lead to suspension or restrictions of quinolone fluoroquinolone antibiotics – European Medicines Agency. (2019). Retrieved 5 November 2019, from https://www.ema.europa.eu/en/news/disabling-potentially-permanent-side-effects…/

[2] Lee, C. C., Lee, M. T. G., Chen, Y. S., Lee, S. H., Chen, Y. S., Chen, S. C., & Chang, S. C. (2015). Risk of aortic dissection and aortic aneurysm in patients taking oral fluoroquinolone. JAMA internal medicine, 175(11), 1839-1847. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26436523/

[3] FDA warns about increased risk of ruptures or tears in the aorta blood. (2019). Retrieved 5 November 2019, from https://www.fda.gov/drugs/drug-safety-and-availability/fda-warns-about-increased-risk-ruptures-or-tears-aorta-blood-vessel-fluoroquinolone-antibiotics

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