Fluoroquinolones are commonly prescribed to treat urinary tract infections and other illnesses. Recently, these antibiotics have been shown to cause potentially harmful side effects. In August 2013, the US Food and Drug Administration required the drug labels and Medication Guides for antibiotics called fluoroquinolones to be updated to better describe the possible side effect of serious nerve damage. Researchers recently found that patients with diabetes who took oral fluoroquinolones were more likely to have serious blood sugar fluctuations compared to diabetes patients who took other types of antibiotics. Abnormal blood sugar levels can lead to unconsciousness, seizures, heart attack, stroke and other severe health problems in patients with diabetes.
Mei-Shu Lai, MD, PhD, at the Institute of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, College of Public Health at the National Taiwan University in Taipei, led this analysis of data on about 78,000 individuals with diabetes in Taiwan. Using records from Taiwan’s national insurance program, the scientists reviewed patient use of antibiotics and then looked for emergency room visits or hospitalizations because of abnormal blood sugar levels that occurred within 30 days of taking the antibiotics. Three types of antiobiotics were examined: fluoroquinolones, second-generation cephalosporins and macrolides.
The researchers observed that diabetes patients taking oral fluoroquinolones were more likely to have severe blood sugar swings than diabetes patients taking antibiotics in other classes. (1) These blood sugar abnormalities can lead to serious health problems, including irreversible brain damage or even death. Previous studies have already shown that fluoroquinolones may be linked with blood sugar abnormalities (called dysglycemia), as well as with tendon rupture, heart arrhythmia. In 2006, gatifloxacin, which is in the fluoroquinolone class, was pulled from the US market due to the risk of blood sugar abnormalities.
Dr. Lai and her team were especially concerned since fluoroquinolones are increasingly used to treat urinary tract infections, community-acquired pneumonia and other illnesses. “Clinicians should consider these risks when treating patients with diabetes and prescribe fluoroquinolones cautiously,” the authors wrote.
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