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A silver lining for Cipro victims

Ever since we sued the FDA for failing to respond to our August 2006 petition to increase warnings about the risk of tendon rupture with fluoroquinolone antibiotics, we’ve received a lot of valuable feedback from people who’ve had problems with these drugs, which include Cipro and Levaquin. Actually, “a lot” is a pretty big understatement: we’ve been downright flooded with the tales of drug-induced misfortune that have poured in through email, over the phone and by regular old snail-mail.

The good news? The FDA responded to our lawsuit by slapping fluoroquinolones with a black box warning – the strongest warning the FDA can request. The agency also required manufacturers to produce special Medication Guides that explain the risks and benefits of the drugs in language intended for patients.

The news we aren’t so happy about? The federal agency disagreed with the other essential part of our petition: that drugmakers should send physicians a Dear Doctor letter informing them of the side effects their patients might encounter with these drugs. But we are in it to win it, so we are now considering another lawsuit to force the FDA to require companies to send warning letters to doctors, since the agency has admitted that doctors are not adequately warned about these largely preventable tendon ruptures.

While we wait for the agency to see the light, I thought I’d try to answer one question that I’m sure is on the mind of everyone who has suffered tendinitis as a result of these drugs: When will I get better?

Unfortunately, there isn’t a clear, concrete answer to that question, but we do have some information that may be helpful.

A review of fluoroquinolone safety published in the Southern Medical Journal says “Even with early diagnosis and management, tendinitis heals slowly,” but also that “The mean recovery time reported is from 3 weeks for tendinitis to 3 months for a tendon rupture.”

The logical follow-up question is, of course, how do people recover from fluoroquinolone-induced tendon injuries?

Regrettably, there does not seem to be an easy answer to this question either — at this time there is no miracle cure that offers instantaneous relief to patients suffering from the symptoms of tendon damage.

But the Southern Medical Journal authors state that most patients can expect “complete recovery … if rupture is not present.” And while you wait for your body to heal itself, treatment is fairly intuitive: stop use of the fluoroquinolone and have your doctor switch you to another antibiotic; rest your tendons; use anti-inflammatory drugs for pain (being careful not to exceed daily limits); elevate your leg (if the pain is in your Achilles’ tendon); and ice the affected areas. Patients frequently use splints or crutches while they recover.

So the good news is that although some unlucky patients might require surgery, the odds are that, if you’ve been hurt by Cipro (or any of the fluoroquinolones, for that matter), you can probably expect your body to heal itself with “2 to 6 weeks of non-weight-bearing activity.” In other words: take a load off.

Anyone who experiences unexpected tendon pain while taking a fluoroquinolone antibiotic should stop taking the drug immediately, call their doctor and rest. For those of you who are interested in learning more about fluoroquinolone antibiotics – or any of the roughly 600 prescription and over-the-counter drugs our experts in drug safety have evaluated – can find out more by subscribing to www.WorstPills.org today.