Health Canada expands warning for some antibiotics

A class of antibiotics called fluoroquinolones are associated with a range of persistent or disabling side-effects in rare cases, according to Health Canada.

Fluoroquinolones include oral and injectable antibiotics used to treat respiratory, urinary tract and other infections. The drugs are available as generic and brand name products including:

  • Ciprofloxacin (Cipro).
  • Moxifloxacin (Avelox).
  • Levofloxacin.
  • Norfloxacin.
  • Ofloxacin.

In 2008, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Health Canada asked makers of fluoroquinolone drugs to place a warning on the label that the drugs could lead to tendon ruptures.

Now the Canadian regulator says a safety review suggests known side-effects include not only muscular issues such as tendonitis and Achilles tendon rupture, but also nerve damage such as peripheral neuropathy (damage to or a disorder affecting the nerves outside the spinal cord and brain), and central nervous system issues such as anxiety, dizziness and confusion.

Reactions can occur hours to weeks after taking a fluoroquinolone.

“As a result of its safety review, Health Canada is working with manufacturers to include information concerning this rare but serious risk in the product labelling of these drugs,” the regulator said Monday.

Health Canada said before taking a fluoroquinolone antibiotic, tell your health-care professional if you have previously experienced a side-effect related to its use.

If you experience side-effects such as joint and muscle pain, numbness, tingling or confusion while taking a fluoroquinolone, consult a health-care professional.

Researchers will also conduct more studies to better understand the use of fluoroquinolones in Canada, the regulator said. 

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