8News Investigates: Could this antibiotic permanently damage your health?

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – Cipro is a popular and powerful prescription drug that may be in your medicine cabinet right now. But are there hidden side effects that you won’t find on the label?

“I was two weeks into taking Cipro and I lost the ability to talk,” said Richmond Furman, who has never been the same since being prescribed Cipro in 1999.

Cipro, part of a family of drugs called Fluorouquinolones, is powerful enough to treat anthrax and is widely prescribed for everything from ear infections to sinus infections.

Over the years, Furman was prescribed the drug multiple times for everything from a urinary tract infection to an ear infection. And while the infections cleared, he noticed those unusual symptoms intensify with each dose.

“I suffered ringing in the ears, vertigo, sharp stabbing pains, numbness in limbs,” Furman said. “I suffered panic attacks so severe I couldn’t sit down.”

It wasn;t until Furman began to research the drug online that he found there were others like him.

8News obtained an internal FDA memo that shows while more research is needed, the drug could be linked to mitochondrial toxicity. In other words, damage to one’s cells.

The memo goes on to say mitochondrial toxicity could be associated with neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

“There are still safe and effective drugs, even though they need to be taken with caution,” said Craig Parrish, the Virginia Department of Health’s Pharmacy Director.

Parrish added that these drugs have prevented a lot of hospitalizations, and side effects are rare.

And Bayer, the maker of Cipro, tells us, “patient safety is our top priority. We take all reports of adverse events seriously, and they are reported to the U.S. FDA as required.”

Still, Furman now refuses to take Cipro or any other Fluorouquinolone.

Instead, he takes a sort of cocktail of vitamins and anti-oxidants to counteract what he believes have been the damaging effects of the drug.

Cipro is not the only antibiotic in the family of drugs raising a red flag.

These drugs already come with a warning about tendon ruptures and nerve damage. But there is now a push for serious warnings.

You can watch Part I and Part II of Kerri O’Brien’s investigation at the top of this post.

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