The high-profile and successful “Go Red For Women” campaign by the American Heart Association has become synonymous with the month of February. The campaign is designed to “increase women’s heart health awareness and serve as a catalyst for change to improve the lives of women globally.”

This “Heart Health Month” the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continues to warn that a new danger can affect both women and men, especially those who are at an increased risk of aortic ruptures. Federal regulators say the danger could be lurking in the antibiotics used to treat infections such as acute bacterial sinusitis, acute exacerbation of chronic bronchitis, and uncomplicated urinary tract infections. The FDA began warning consumers last December about the class of antibiotics known as fluoroquinolones after getting reports and reviewing four observational studies. The agency warns that the antibiotics can cause rare but serious ruptures or tears in the aorta, the main artery running through the body.

The tears caused by fluoroquinolones are called aortic dissections or ruptures of an aortic aneurysm that can lead to dangerous bleeding and death. The risk appears to apply to both current and past users. People at increased risk include those with a history of blockages or aneurysms of the aorta or other blood vessels, high blood pressure, certain genetic disorders that involve blood vessel changes, and the elderly. These patients should not be treated with fluoroquinolones unless no other treatment options are available.

Symptoms of aortic aneurysm often do not show up until the aneurysm becomes large and bursts. It is important for patients taking fluoroquinolones to seek immediate medical attention if they experience sudden, severe and constant pain in the stomach, chest or back as these are the areas of the body where aneurysms – abdominal and thoracic – often occur.

Fluoroquinolones were first approved by the FDA in 1987 and work by killing or stopping the growth of bacteria. They are available in tablets, capsules, injectables, ear drops, eye drops and inhalers. Brand-name fluoroquinolones include:

  • Avelox (moxifloxacin)
  • Baxdela (delafloxacin)
  • Cipro (ciprofloxacin)
  • Factive (gemifloxacin)
  • Floxin (ofloxacin)
  • Levaquin (levofloxacin)
  • Noroxin (norofloxacin)

This isn’t the first warning the antibiotics have received from the FDA. In 2016, the agency limited the use of the drugs after they were linked to possible disabling and permanent side effects involving tendons, muscle joints, nerves and central nervous system.

American Heart Association
Beasley Allen
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