Left paralysed from Fluoroquinolone antibiotic toxicity
"My health and my life have been destroyed," said Pyne, speaking to
Pyne blames his health crisis, which also includes skin and respiratory complaints, on ciprofloxacin, an antibiotic of the fluoroquinolone drug class. He was prescribed ciprofloxacin - or cipro, for short - to treat prostatitis in
"I can't walk properly and haven't been able to walk properly for over a year," said Pyne. "My elbows, knees, ankles, pelvic joints, just snap and pop - even my neck."
Fluoroquinolone toxicity - a disorder of the musculoskeletal system - is very real. Yet many of the world's fluoroquinolone consumers remain unaware of the grim and life-changing side effects that the likes of cipro, which the
"Fluoroquinolones can even take young lives and really destroy them," said Dr
Golomb, who is conducting a research project about fluoroquinolone antibiotics, continued to
"I went from doing cross-fit and going to the gym every single day to barely being able to walk," said Bloomquist, who lives and works in
Hard statistics on adverse events are difficult to come by, but in the US some
22 million Americans received a prescription for an oral fluoroquinolone in 2014 alone. Reports put the number of suspected US cipro-related adverse reactions at 79,000, including 1,700 deaths, between 2005 and 2015. Another fluoroquinolone -levofloxacin - has been linked to 80,000 adverse drug reactions, including around 1,000 deaths, over the same period.
Many health professionals, however, contend that such numbers grossly underrepresent the true scale of the problem, which, in the US, saw the
"We've been amazed that many toxicities occur within seven days, some within three days and some within one day of drug initiation of fluoroquinolones," said Dr
"So, if you put the whole thinking together and the fact that most of these people are under-reported or not reported, we're talking about an epidemic here."
In the US, cipro became known to some as the drug given to American troops during the 1990-91 Gulf War to guard against chemical weapon attacks.
Today, the Californian says he suffers from various health complaints from his time in the Gulf, including peripheral neuropathy, which presents as tingling and numbness in the limbs.
"One day, I came across an article which said that the
The 52-year-old is not stating that he holds cipro solely responsible for his peripheral neuropathy - he accepts that he was exposed to a number of different environmental factors and drug combinations in the Gulf which could also be to blame - but he says that he still "feels a lot of guilt" about browbeating his men into taking their cipro dosage.
"I kind of feel that since I was a corpsman and they were my marines, I was there to protect them," added the former military man, his voice breaking with emotion. "It weighs heavily on me and is a large cause of my post-traumatic stress."
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Bloomquist says that she took a year and a half to recover from her debilitating complaints during which she considered herself "floxed" - a common term for those who claim to suffer from fluoroquinolone toxicity. Soon after her health returned, she began to campaign to raise awareness of fluoroquinolones, setting up her globally popular website
"Doing the advocacy work and doing the website, it took something that was by far the most traumatising and scariest thing that had ever happened to me, and I was able to turn that into something good," added the American, who recently moved to a house across
Few could dispute that antibiotics save lives, but the likes of Bloomquist want to see the prescription of fluoroquinolones limited to "use only in life-or-death situations when there is no viable alternative". Indeed, despite the
reports say that their use outside of the hospital in the US is still high.
Bayer, the drug manufacturers of cipro, told
The company, which has been the subject of US
lawsuits concerning its fluoroquinolones, added: "Bayer believes that the current approved product labelling of ciprofloxacin and moxifloxacin accurately reflects the benefit-risk profile of both drugs in the approved indications. Bayer's highest priority is patient safety, and we will continue to work closely with regulatory authorities on this topic."
Back in the
"At the moment, I can't see myself recovering," said a dejected Pyne, who was still trying to come to terms with his late Asperger syndrome/autism spectrum disorder diagnosis when he took cipro. "I'm trying to accept my situation to some degree … The sad truth is that some people never completely recover - and you know what they say, 'it's the hope that kills you.'"