Guest Editorial: What Happened When We Questioned a Prescription for Levofloxacin

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This is a post about the potential dangers of a specific prescription drug (Levaquin, aka Levofloxacin) that my husband was prescribed today (June 11, 2017).

I’m writing this as a guest post – not to tell you not to take this drug, but to tell you about today’s incident, and why you – the consumer – need to be aware of what your health care providers are prescribing, often without truly paying attention to the potentially serious side effects of the medication. I have nothing to gain by writing this post.

Also, I want to share our story about what happened when we actually took the patient information pamphlet’s advice to “call your doctor right away…”

The Backstory:

Yesterday, Saturday June 10, 2017, at around 6:00 pm, my husband was working to put in our garden. At this time, he was planting some red potatoes, and after preparing the seed potatoes, there were a few pieces left, which he decided to plant into the compost pile, “just in case they take!”

We have done this before with “leftover” seeds and bulbs, sometimes with entertaining effects! After all, it’s fun to see the unexpected sprouts come up and then reap the rewards! You never know what is going to come up in the compost pile…

Anyway, as he was putting the leftover potato seed pieces into the compost, he felt a searing pain in his foot. Oh no… it was an errant (but very rusty) nail. Yup. Right through the shoe bottom, through the sock, and a good ¼ to ½ inch into the foot. Not quite THROUGH the foot, but close enough to see redness on the top of the foot.

Not good.

Being a very rural area with only emergency room services over the weekend, and very unsatisfactory insurance coverage (let’s not go there, ok?) we knew we were looking at a good $500 or more bill if we went to an emergency room anywhere within the 35 mile radius of our home. There are no walk-in clinics nearby.

After looking on line for everything we could find about foot puncture wounds, we realized that we really should get him to a clinic the next day. But, in preparation, we soaked his foot 3 times in a warm water mix of Epsom salts and hydrogen peroxide throughout the evening.

The wound looked a little better, but let’s face it… the nail was covered in rust and composted manure.

The next morning, we found an open walk-in clinic about 30 miles away and so we hurried over. Tetanus shot? Yup! Check!

They approved of how we had treated the wound, and we walked away with a prescription for an antibiotic. Fair enough, and totally expected given the injury.

We headed back up the mountain to the little ol’ local Walmart pharmacy where the clinic had called in the prescription.

The prescription was for Levaquin – or, Levofloxacin as the generic name goes.

Perhaps you have heard of this.

It is a Fluoroquinolone

Levofloxacin is part of a group of drugs called systemic fluoroquinolones. Others, besides Levofloxacin (Levaquin) include Ciprofloxacin (Cipro), Gemifloxacin (Factive), Moxifloxacin (Avelox), and Ofloxacin (Floxin).

In 2016, the FDA made some fairly serious safety announcements regarding fluoroquinolone antibacterial drugs. I won’t bore you by repeating what they said – but you can see some of it for yourself at the following links:

  • https://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/ucm500143.htm
  • https://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/ucm511530.htm

For some reason, my husband didn’t just pop one of the tablets once we got back to the parking lot. He was looking at the patient information form. He said, “You know… I’m not going to take this just yet. I want to get home and look at this a little more closely.”

So we did.

After another half an hour, he looked at me with a facial expression that combined a bit of horror with a bit of anger. We could not believe that the clinic had prescribed this without considering that a lesser antibiotic be attempted first. I know that a puncture wound can be serious, but why pull out one of the most powerful ones right away, especially given the potential for extremely serious side effects?

If you look at the screenshot of the medicine information sheet that we received with the prescription, you may see why we were concerned. This is just one section of warnings:

As my husband was saying, “I have the Trifecta of the most serious markers that could trigger a really bad side effect of this!” He pointed out several potential side effects. I’m not going to get into it here – but you can see them in any of the following sites:

  • Mercola (a popular natural health site): http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/10/20/fluoroquinolones-side-effects.aspxWebMD
  • Peoples Pharmacy https://www.peoplespharmacy.com/2016/05/12/new-fda-warning-for-popular-cipro-and-levaquin-antibiotics/
  • Larry Klayman, a former federal prosecutor, writes about how the “Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finally came clean about the dangers of the common Johnson & Johnson antibiotic, Levaquin, stating it may result in “disabling and potentially permanent serious side effects….” (Source http://www.larryklayman.com/article.php?id=8)

There is no shortage of other articles and posts about this drug; you’ll have no difficulty finding more if you are interested.

What the patient paperwork advises

As we further reviewed the paperwork, they advise the patient to immediately talk with the doctor with any concerns, yada yada… you know the verbiage if you’ve ever taken meds, or read the paperwork that comes with the stuff.

Phew! Ok… we’ll call the clinic!

My husband called the Clinic

When he called the clinic, he was instantly transferred to someone – we don’t know to whom – that would not (or could not) address his concerns other than to say, “it is your right not to take the medication.”

My husband said several times, “but, I’m at serious risk for some of these side effects! Can’t you prescribe something else?”

The representative on the other end refused, and said nothing else other than, “talk with your primary care provider.”

Oh my holy God.

Seriously?

So, now, it was 3:00 pm on a Sunday, and there was no one to talk with about this, and even though my husband clearly outlined the numerous reasons why he may not be a good candidate to take Levofloxacin, the clinic would not (or could not) help him.

I was personally near tears. Neither of us wanted him to take this exceptionally potent drug for a bacterial infection that may not even exist (yet, anyway).

It was absolutely, 100% clear from reading the product literature that Levofloxacin should be taken ONLY when everything else has failed…

What could we do?

Well…we bothered a neighbor who happens to be a doctor, because NO ONE would listen to us.

We apologized to the doctor, but explained we really needed some technical assistance.
He understood our concerns, especially after my husband outlined, one by one, the reasons he might be at risk for one or more of the serious side effects of the drug.

Our neighbor did agree that this particular drug is a heavy hitter, and is understandably used when a potentially serious bacterial infection is present.

But he also listened to my husband, and agreed that this needed to be examined further.

After a bit of going back and forth, with my husband understanding that there was potential for a serious infection, the doctor prescribed an alternative – and heavy – dose of an alternative antibiotic which, after careful monitoring of the wound and potential infection, my husband might still be a candidate for the Levofloxacin if there were further complications.

This, we agreed upon. IF, and only if we truly needed to take this drastic step.

You see… we know that sometimes a person needs to take some heavy-hitting antibiotics. Antibiotics can and do save lives. We know that, and we are grateful for them.

But, in more than 20 years, my husband had not needed any. So, he questioned the initial prescription of the Levofloxacin when “everything else” hadn’t worked.

I’m writing this today – not to say don’t take this class of fluoroquinolones – but to become educated and aware of the potential side effects of the medications that are prescribed to you.

But wait – there’s more…

I have one more reason to write this post today. Our particular experience with the Levofloxacin prescription, the knowing that no one was even remotely listening to my husband’s concerns is the tip of the ice berg.

My husband’s own parents, who are in their mid-80s, are taking a number of medications for a variety of ailments. We get it… My dad had a stroke, and takes a bunch of stuff that is – thankfully – keeping him with us!

There is something, though, that has been bugging us. My husband’s parents began experiencing a number of issues that, prior to a few months ago weren’t evident.

I will not go into details other than to say that we asked them about the meds they were taking, and if any of the symptoms they were experiencing could possibly be related to those medications.

So, they looked at all the potential side effects of all the combined medications, and sure enough, there was enough of a correlation that fell under the general heading that reads something like: “Contact your health care provider immediately if you experience any of these symptoms…blah…blah…blah…”

So they did.

And what do you think that their health care provider said?

If you answered, “Hmmm, I’ll bet they said not to worry about it, because it’s a normal side effect, and this is the best medication for your situation…” then you get the prize for the day.

How dare they? How dare the people who are entrusted with prescribing medications to supposedly help us IGNORE us when we say, ‘uh… gee… I am actually experiencing this side effect…’ or ‘I have a pre-disposition to this stuff in the warnings…’ or anything else?

And my husband felt ignored today (until he bothered our neighbor who, thankfully, listened to him – even though it was off-hours…).

How many people have the good fortune to have a personal care physician (or a good neighbor who happens to be an excellent doctor) that they can go to in order to get another opinion – or at least someone who will listen to him or her for more than 2 minutes?

Just so you know, we do not have great insurance. Our deductible is $6,300 per year per person – and we still pay a monthly premium. We do this because we are forced to via the “Affordable Care Act” that obviously isn’t something we’re going to debate here at this website. As self-employed individuals, we fall through more cracks than you might imagine.
We are doing the best we can with what we have.

Anyway, we felt that this particular visit to a doctor’s office was critical, because we know the potential serious nature of a nasty puncture wound.

I suppose I did not have to write such a long essay about our experience. My primary reason for writing this today is to just tell you that if are prescribed a medication (and I don’t care WHAT it’s for), PLEASE, please, please, read the patient information before you agree to take it.

There are a lot of life-saving medications out there – and as I said, we are very grateful for them. Right now, my husband is taking an antibiotic – but not the first one they prescribed.

If his wound turns out to be so serious that it needs a fluoroquinolone drug (“or else”) – then so be it.

We’ll cross that bridge if we come to it. But not as a first line of defense. Not for him. Not given the potential side effects that he is already prone to.

Please educate yourselves about the medications that you are given.

That’s all I’m asking you to do in this post.

Thank you for reading. I wish you the best of health!

Sincerely,

(Name withheld for privacy reasons)

Guest Editorial: What Happened When We Questioned a Prescription for Levofloxacin
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2 COMMENTS

  1. I’m curious as to what the writer’s neighbor prescribed as an alternative to the Levaquin, and also if there is any follow up she can offer. Is her husband improving? Is there any way to reach out to the author to do a follow up? Thanks.

    • Hi Delaney,
      Thanks for writing in. We spoke with the author, and she said her husband was prescribed “Keflex,” the brand name of cephalexin. He’s still taking the antibiotic, and has one more day on it to finish the course. From what she said, by Tuesday (June 13th), the redness and swelling had gone down, and his foot was looking and feeling considerably better. He’s keeping an eye on it of course, but so far so good. We’ll add her edits to her article once she and her husband are sure that things are looking good. Thanks again!

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