The Government has issued new restrictions on a common over-the-counter antibiotic, citing its adverse effects that include paralysis.
Fluoroquinolone, a group of antibiotics usually prescribed to treat pneumonia, typhoid and Urinary Tract Infections, will no longer be used for mild infections that can be treated with other antibiotics.
Industry regulator Pharmacy and Poisons Board (PPB) also said antibiotics in this group would be prescribed with caution to the elderly, patients with renal impairment and those with solid organ transplant.
In your local chemist, you will probably find these antibiotics going by different brand names, most of which are generics: Ciprofloxacin or famously as Cipro, Levoflaxacin, Ceprolen, Cifran, Ciloxan, Neofloxin, Gemifloxacin, Moxifloxacin, Norfloxacin, and Ofloxacin.
The caution also extends to patients concurrently treated with corticosteroids, a group of drugs known as steroids—like prednisone — used to treat inflammations caused by severe allergies like asthma or skin problems.
“This is because long term use can lead to long lasting, disabling and potentially permanent effects involving tendons, muscle, joints and the nervous system,” said PPB Head of Pharmacovigilance Christabel Khaemba.
These new restrictions, said Dr Khaemba, have been informed by an assessment of new safety reports and studies from European Agencies Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee, which issued recommendations on how they should be used.
She said the drugs should not be prescribed to persons allergic to fluoroquinolones.
“Patients will now be advised to discontinue the drug at first sign of serious adverse reaction like muscle weakness or pain, joint pain or swelling, peripheral neuropathy and central nervous system effects and contact their doctor,” said Khaemba.
In December 2018, US’ Food and Drug Authority (FDA) issued precaution on all fluoroquinolone antibiotics saying they had been found to increase the occurrence of rare but serious events of ruptures of the main artery in the body called aorta.
“They work by killing or stopping the growth of bacteria that can cause illness. Without treatment, some infections can spread and lead to serious health problems,” reads the December 20, 2018 update.
“These tears, called aortic dissections, or ruptures of an aortic aneurysm can lead to dangerous bleeding or even death.”
FDA further asked practitioners to prescribe fluoroquinolones when no other form of treatment is available, and it should not be prescribed if one has aortic aneurysm (enlarged aorta), is elderly, or suffers high blood pressure.
In 2017, Health Canada also issued precaution saying the drug had tendencies of causing tremors, where the body shivers without necessarily having a fever.