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When physicians prescribe antibiotics to patients, they don’t expect their patients to develop a problem with their aorta. However, patients taking the fluoroquinolone class of antibiotics may do just that, based on elevated risk estimates found in two studies recently published in medical journals.

W&L is now accepting clients who have suffered aortic dissection or aortic aneurysm that necessitated overnight hospitalization or surgery, or resulted in death, within one year of taking fluoroquinolone antibiotics.

Victims of Fluoroquinolone Antibiotics Are Urged to Contact W&L

”We are interested in talking to people who took a fluoroquinolone antibiotic for an infection and ended up in the hospital or having surgery because the drug affected their aorta and caused significant damage,” said Ellen Relkin, a W&L attorney whose practice focuses on pharmaceutical product liability

Ms. Relkin added, “We also would like to talk to surviving spouses or relatives of people who took a fluoroquinolone antibiotic and then died as a result of an aortic rupture, aneurysm or dissection. They deserve to be compensated for their loss of a loved one.”

Studies Suggest Fluoroquinolones Increase Risk of Aortic Dissection and Aortic Aneurysm

According to studies published in respected medical journals JAMA Internal Medicine and BMJ Open, people taking fluoroquinolone antibiotics had increased risk of aortic aneurysm and aortic dissection. 

In recent years, the medical establishment has become aware that taking fluoroquinolone antibiotics may be associated with tendonitis and tendon ruptures, especially in the Achilles tendon.

Evidence suggests that taking fluoroquinolone antibiotics may be associated with collagen degradation, which this new research shows has the potential to weaken not only tendons but also the aortic wall. Researchers who authored the study published in BMJ Open stated that the types of collagen that ”comprise the majority of collagen in the Achilles tendon…also comprise the majority (80-90%) of collagen in the aorta.”

Biological plausibility of the ability for fluoroquinolone antibiotics to cause increased risk of aortic aneurysm and aortic dissection exists.  These researchers found more than double increased risk of aortic aneurysm in patients 65 and older who took a fluoroquinolone compared to amoxicillin, a different kind of antibiotic. 

Although no warnings or precautions regarding the potential for these life-threatening events exist in the labels for fluoroquinolone antibiotics, they should be cause for concern.  Clinicians considering prescribing fluoroquinolone antibiotics should weigh the potential for the serious risk of aortic aneurysm in exposed patients.

Aortic Dissection and Aneurysm

The authors of the study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found a significant, more than twofold increased rate of aortic aneurysm or dissection with use of fluoroquinolone antibiotics.

The authors of this study note ”[a]ortic dissection and aortic aneurysm are major life-threatening diseases worldwide.” ”Epidemiology studies show that mortality from aortic aneurysm and dissection has risen over the past decades in many developed countries.” ”[A]ortic aneurysm has become the 13th leading cause of death, claiming an estimated 15 000 deaths annually in the United States.” The authors conjecture that the rapid increase in the fluoroquinolone use may contribute to the rise in mortality from these events.

According to the Mayo Clinic, an aortic dissection is ”a serious condition in which the inner layer of the aorta, the large blood vessel branching off the heart, tears. Blood surges through the tear, causing the inner and middle layers of the aorta to separate (dissect). If the blood-filled channel ruptures through the outside aortic wall, aortic dissection is often fatal.”

MedlinePlus, part of the National Institutes of Health U.S. National Library of Medicine, defines an aneurysm as ”a ‘bulge’ or ‘ballooning’ in the wall of an artery. . .  If an aneurysm grows large, it can burst and cause dangerous bleeding or even death.” An aortic aneurysm is an aneurysm of the largest artery in the body, the aorta, which allows oxygenated blood from the heart to be carried to the rest of the body.

Fluoroquinolone Antibiotics

Different fluoroquinolone antibiotics are approved by the FDA for different purposes, but generally, the fluoroquinolones are antibacterial agents often used to treat infections, such as pneumonia, bronchitis, urinary tract infections, and certain respiratory tract infections. 

Fluoroquinolone antibiotics include:

  • Cipro (ciprofloxacin)
  • Cipro XR (ciprofloxacin extended-release)
  • Levaquin (levofloxacin)
  • Avelox (moxifloxacin)
  • Factive (gemifloxacin)
  • Floxin (ofloxacin)
  • Maxaquin (lomefloxacin)
  • Noroxin (norfloxacin)
  • Proquin XR (ciprofloxacin extended-release)
  • Zagam (sparfloxacin)