Antibiotics can be a lifesaver and can help patients fight off bacterial infections. However, certain antibiotics are known to be very powerful and should only be reserved to treat patients with serious infections. But a recent study revealed that many doctors have prescribed potent antibiotics, like Levaquin for instance, when they probably shouldn't have.
Levaquin, is in the class of antibiotics known as fluoroquinolones. According to guidelines by the American Thoracic Society, fluoroquinolones should be reserved to treat serious bacterial infections like hospital-acquired pneumonia and drugs like doxycycline or macrolide, they say, should be administered first.
However, data shows that they are being prescribed for less serious illnesses. In some cases, Levaquin was found prescribed to treat sinus infections, ear aches, bronchitis and other less serious ailments. Some doctors say, these illnesses should've been treated with less serious drugs, or none at all, since many are caused by viruses.
One pharmacological epidemiologist with the University of British Columbia thinks, "These types of drugs were overused by lazy doctors who are trying to kill a fly with an automic weapon." Doctors at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention seemingly agree and have indicated that, "fluoroquinolones are prescribed unnecessarily as a one-size-fits all remedy without considering their suitability for different patients."
And there seems to be some truth in this theory. Levaquin was the best selling antibiotic medication in 2010.
Unfortunately, these drugs comes with hefty side effects and, in some cases endangered the lives of patients. According to a study published in the April Journal of the American Medical Association, there was a five time higher risk of suffering blindness for those who were taking fluoroquinolones compared to those who weren't. Another study indicated that users of the antibiotics had a much higher risk of acute kidney failure than those who didn't take the drugs.
Fluoroquinolones provides a "black box" warning to patients, however, many who are given prescriptions are rarely informed by doctors of the risks. Patients prescribed any type medication, antibiotics or otherwise, are always advised to ask their doctors about serious side effects that could result from taking the drug.
Source: The New York Times, "Popular antibiotics may carry serious side effects," Jane E. Brody, Sept. 10, 2012