by Dr. Bill Rawls
A new study links Cipro, Levaquin, and other antibiotics in the fluoroquinolone family to scary side effects called “being floxed” that are particularly damaging to Lyme patients. Dr. Bill Rawls explains the risks and shares his thoughts on when to choose a safer option below. Learn more about chronic Lyme disease here.
Hello everybody. This is Dr. Rawls, keeping you informed. My topic today is floxing, or being floxed, short for fluoroquinolone toxicity. Here, what I’m referring to is Lyme disease patients, and others, being treated with a class of antibiotics called fluoroquinolones. The two big ones out there are Cipro or Ciprofloxacin, and Levaquin or Levofloxacin.
These antibiotics have been around a while. They debuted about 30 years ago, around the time I was in medical school. And they were supposed to be the end to all bacterial resistance.
They were unique because you could get blood levels with oral doses, instead of intravenous doses. And the drug company said, “This is going to end all bacterial resistance. Bacteria will never be resistant to these antibiotics.”
Well, the bacteria proved them wrong. The bacteria do become resistant to these drugs. But they are more potent than other types of antibiotics.
The problem is that within a fairly short period of time of several years, pretty significant side effects started showing up with these drugs. A lot of times, side effects don’t show up in the early studies. It takes years to accumulate evidence, and we’re still talking about it today.
But the big thing is these drugs interfere with collagen synthesis, and they’re toxic to mitochondria in the body. This is especially bad for Lyme disease patients who already have problems with their collagen synthesis being challenged. Then you throw this antibiotic on top of it, and it can lead to real problems.
What kind of problems? A wide range of problems. The earliest ones reported were tendonitis and rupture of tendons, especially the Achilles tendon that moves your heel and your foot. There were cases of athletes with bilateral tendon rupture that really got everybody’s attention, but it was still considered a fairly low incidence of only 1% to 2%.
So these antibiotics kept being prescribed, and they kept being pushed by the drug companies — another incidence of the drug companies pushing things that have some real concerns.
But it didn’t stop there. We found out that it also affected all the collagen in the body, retinal detachments, aortic aneurysms and dissections, heart problems, and a range of other symptoms — cognitive, psychological, neurological, endocrine, gastrointestinal. This one turned out to be really bad for causing overgrowth of C. Diff in the gut, so a whole range of problems.
Now, the latest round of concerns, and the reason I’m doing this a short take right now, comes from a study put out this month by The Journal of The American College of Cardiology. It was an article defining that mitral and aortic valve regurgitation, or leaky valves, are much more common in people who use this particular class of antibiotics. Not just the main two drugs, but any of them.
There are several fluoroquinolones out there that are widely prescribed. And they’re still being prescribed, even though in 2008, the FDA put out a black box warning. What is that?
Well, it’s a restriction on the use of a drug. Here they suggested that the concerns were great enough with these drugs that this antibiotic should not be used unless there were no alternatives possible, that the only thing that could treat the bacteria because of resistance was a fluoroquinolone.
But of course, that’s not what’s happening. A lot of doctors out there are still prescribing these drugs prolifically for ordinary urinary tract infections and a range of other things, because that’s what they’re hearing from the drug reps and the pharmaceutical companies. It’s a real problem, but you do have a choice. There are a lot of other good alternatives as far as antibiotics for Lyme disease, but mainly for acute Lyme disease.
We know that doxycycline and amoxicillin still work really well. If you’re struggling with chronic Lyme disease though, I would really put in a tip for using herbal therapy as your primary approach, because that’s going to suppress all the antibiotic resistant forms of these microbes. When you look at a chronic Lyme infection, the Borrelia just don’t respond to antibiotic therapy.
I think herbs are a better option with less use or minimal use of antibiotics. But if you have Lyme disease, don’t let somebody prescribe a fluoroquinolone, Cipro or Levaquin, to treat you, because it can really affect your collagen synthesis.
And even if you don’t end up with one of the really bad problems, like a tendon rupture or something like that, it’s still affecting your body in a negative way. There are better choices out there. Take care.
1. Mahyar Etminan, et al. Oral Fluoroquinolones and Risk of Mitral and Aortic Regurgitation. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 2019; 74 (11): 1444 DOI: 10.1016/j.jacc.2019.07.035