Harry's Story

Seven years ago On Dec 13, 1997, when I was 35 years old and in excellent health, I went to the doctor for minor urinary tract discomfort that started to occur after making love with my wife, so I made an appointment with a doctor. I went to the doctor expecting him to perform testing to see if I had an infection, but instead he said “we don’t test in these circumstances anymore, we just prescribe a broad-spectrum antibiotic that kills a wide variety of pathogens.” After 10 minutes in his office, I was whisked out the door and on my way to the pharmacy. After starting the antibiotic he prescribed called Cipro I began feeling anxious and edgy. After a few days on the drug I began to experiencing hallucinations and a higher rate of anxiety where I was euphoric one minute and then crying the next. I called my doctor and he assured me it was the infection causing my symptoms and to keep taking the antibiotic. Then I started experiencing muscle pain in my legs, lower back and pelvis region along with a massive headache. Plus I still had the anxiety which started turning into panic attacks that left me feeling like I was having a stroke. I called both my doc and my pharmacist and they all told me to keep taking the antibiotic because the drug would not cause my symptoms. So I listened to them and kept taking the drug. I then remembered the 1/3 page computer printout I received at the pharmacy when I had the Cipro prescription filled that listed two minor side effects that could occur. They were upset stomach and diarrhea. It also said not to take antacids or zinc and magnesium containing foods within 2 hours before or after taking the antibiotic. That is all it said. Nothing about any other side effects or reactions were written anywhere on the page. Scared and not knowing what to do, I stopped the antibiotic and then went back to the doctor. The doc pointed out how I shouldn’t have stopped the antibiotic half-way thru the course. He said he would prescribe a different antibiotic after I questioned if the drugs could be causing my symptoms. He prescribed another antibiotic called Floxin. After taking it I was still experiencing the panic attacks and severe unbearable chronic pain in my muscles and joints. Because I was on a so-called “different” antibiotic, I figured it wasn’t the antibiotics causing my symptoms because the doc had put me on a different antibiotic and the symptoms where still present so it must be from an infection. I did not know at the time that Floxin was in the same class as Cipro, only it was a stronger version. By now I was in constant severe chronic pain and still having anxiety reactions and panic attacks. I had blood in my urine, my sugar was out of whack and my blood pressure was very low. On numerous occasions I passed out from low blood sugar where after going to the ER was given orange juice and sent home. Continually, I kept either passing out or felt like I was going to pass out. I didn’t know if it was from the panic attacks or the hypoglycemia. It took almost 2 years of going back and forth to emergency rooms and doctor offices before finally figuring out it was my heart that was damaged and I that I needed to have a pacemaker installed. I was rushed in and out of the emergency room too many times to count.

I have been admitted into ICU, CCU and 2 mental institutions because of the diagnosis of it being “all in my head”. Then because I was taking narcotic pain relievers for severe chronic pain I was diagnosed as a “drug addict” and someone just trying to get narcotics. As a result, I was sent to a detox center twice, each time for a month, despite the fact that I never had a positive tox screen for any illegal drugs during all those ER visits prior to being admitted to the detox centers. Both times in the detox centers it became obvious that I suffered with severe chronic pain as I attempted to go completely off of the pain medication. The pain was so bad I could not sit still, lie down or do anything. I looked like a fish out of water, squirming in pain and rolling back and forth on the floor in agony. It was quite obvious to the doctors I suffered from chronic pain and so I was released into pain management. I progressively got worse and for over two years I could not even get out of bed except to go to a doctor visit or hospital. Because the doctors didn’t believe my symptoms were from an antibiotic during those first few years (now they do), they referred me to a psychiatrist. My family also assumed the same thing as the doctors, that I was crazy. In addition, from all that was going on in my life, I found myself now going thru a divorce. I then attempted suicide. That was about my lowest point. I thank God everyday now that I survived. Now, the doctors do believe that the antibiotics, called fluoroquinolones (FQ) caused my injuries, however, there are no cures available as of yet.

I have been diagnosed with irreversible nerve damage, muscle damage, heart damage requiring the installation of a pacemaker as well as fatigue and muscle weakness and severe, never-ending chronic pain in my legs, arms, back and neck. The anxiety reactions and panic attacks that I suffered during the first four years of the reaction were actually diagnosed as tiny seizures but they have resolved after I started an alternative therapy which I believe helped cure my anxiety. I have other secondary problems as a result of the nerve damage I won’t mention here. I cannot stand up for more than 15 minutes.

Just prior to my adverse drug reaction to Cipro and Floxin, I was taking over the family business. My wife had finished her doctorate degree and joined a medical practice and I had a B.S. degree in Environmental Science and then completed the Master Plumber’s program and received my Master Plumber’s License. For the first time in our lives, we both started making good money and we were in the process of buying our first house. We were living the American Dream until those tiny pills turned that dream into an American nightmare.

Since that day I lost everything. I am now divorced, have lost my business, my house, trucks, equipment and everything else I owned and loved. I have lost the ability to work and support myself and most of all will probably never have a family at this point. A cannot live any kind of normal life other than being confined to my parents house in a 12 x 8 room where most of the time I lay in bed.

I have been living with my parents for 3 years now. They want to sell their house and move to Florida and they do not want me coming with them. Because I am financially ruined with lawyers constantly trying to collect money from me and take me to court for bills I cannot pay, I may end up on the street, homeless. I had to liquidate my 401 k to pay for medical treatments that didn’t work. All I have now is an income of $700 a month from SSI of which roughly $400 goes to medical expenses where I am left with $300 a month to pay for rent, food, utilities, transportation and all the rest of my expenses.

Although I live in severe chronic pain everyday and my financial situation is dire, I believe God will protect me and I believe that I will somehow get thru this and things will be all right. What keeps me going is the belief that I have a job to do warning others about the crippling dangers associated with these drugs and stopping this nightmare from happening to others. There is something very wrong with this class of drugs and also with the fact that nothing has been done about this by the FDA or the pharmaceutical companies. There is no reason why these drugs should be used as first-line agents when other much safer, cheaper and just as effective non-fluoroquinolone antibiotics are available and warranted. These FQ drugs were originally used as last-line of defense antibiotics to be used only when nothing else was available but have been being used as first line agents because of the huge profit margins that “patented” drugs bring in as opposed to the generic versions of other older antibiotics. These FQ’s were always banned in the use of children and no one under the age of 18 was to be prescribed an FQ except on a compassionate use basis available only to certain kids with cystic fibrosis or one of the few other indications where FQ use was warranted. However, this past year, FDA approved the use of Cipro to be used in all ages from newborn on up for various indications and other FQ drugs are also being approved for pediatric use. These FQ’s will most-likely be used in children on a first-line basis.

There has never been a Dear Doctor letter sent to physicians warning them of any of the serious, crippling and permanently disabling reactions that can occur with FQ use at doses as low as one pill, despite a petition by Public Citizen for FDA to do so as well as citizen complaints, letters and phone calls. The bottom line is that Physicians are still not being warned of the irreversible, crippling ADR’s associated with the use of Fluoroquinolone drugs and new victims are turning up everyday.

Last Updated 2/17/04