“Cipro had fried her liver”: Virginia woman says common antibiotic killed her mother

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — 8News has warned viewers before about commonly prescribed antibiotics leaving patients in permanent pain.

But now a Virginia woman says one of the drugs killed her mother.

Cipro or it’s generic Ciprofloxacin is strong enough to kill Anthrax. Yet doctors have been prescribing it for everything from sinus infections to bladder infections and bronchitis.

Valerie Barnett says the complications can be deadly.

“This was a healthy woman who was vibrant and completely took care of herself and took this pill that she didn’t even need,” says Barnett who still grieves the loss of her mother Magdalene Fuchs.

Fuchs was shot during World War II, she survived a bullet and an escape from Hungary, but what she couldn’t survive was Cipro and it’s generic.
It says so, right on her death certificate.

“Drug-induced cholestatic hepatitis from Ciprofloxacin,” states Barnett reading from the death certificate.

Fuchs was 85 but up until this, she was healthy.

“She was living alone, cooking for herself. She was so active,” says Barnett.

However, one day Fuchs wasn’t feeling great and Barnett said the doctor thought she might have a bladder infection.

“They said we suspect it, so we are going to go ahead and give you Cipro,” says Barnett.

1000 milligrams for just five days. Fuchs was never the same. “She started to look jaundice,” says Barnett.

She was sent to a specialist at Johns Hopkins Hospital as doctors searched for a cause.

Barnett said they asked, “What have you done differently? What have you taken and the Ciprofloxacin came up. I think early on that was a big red flag.”

They discovered her liver was failing and in less than three months from taking the Ciprofloxacin, Fuchs was dead.

“The bottom line was the Cipro had fried her liver,” says Barnett.

Cipro and Ciprofloxacin are part of a group of antibiotics called Fluoroquinolones, which include the drugs Levaquin, Avelox and their generics.

Previous 8News investigations uncovered tens of thousands of complaints about these drugs filed with the food and drug administration- side effects ranging from tendon ruptures to nerve damage and psychiatric problems.

Combing through FDA records for Cipro and the generic- 8News found there have been more than 2000 deaths reported.

“This should not be first-line drugs,” said Dr. Charles Bennett, a Pharmaceutical Watchdog and Professor of Medication Safety at the University of South Carolina.

Dr. Charles Bennett says these drugs are too powerful for bladder or sinus infections.

They come with a black box warning, the most serious of label warnings.

“There’s been 35 warning changes for Cipro over the last ten years,” says Dr. Bennett about that box warning.

The warnings are buried in an insert, in fine print.

“These box warnings are ineffective,” says Bennett.

Doctor Bennett told 8News patients don’t read them and physicians can’t keep up with all the changes.

He believes these antibiotics need to be part of registration program that would then prompt doctors to inform patients about the potential risks. Patients would have to sign off too.

“The doctor signs the consent, the patient and the pharmacists,” said Bennett.  He believes that would limit the overuse of these powerful drugs.

Barnett reads a note her mother left her.

“All life ends and what we came to do must be done while there’s time,” reads Barnett.

Barnett hopes by sharing her mother’s story, she could save a life.

“She doesn’t have the time I do,” adds Barnett.

Perhaps most devastating, Fuchs never even had a bladder infection, as the tests came back negative.

Bayer, the makers of Cipro issued a statement to 8News:

Fluoroquinolones, including Cipro® (ciprofloxacin), are an important class of antibiotics that for many years have been used to treat a range of bacterial infections, some of which are serious and can be life-threatening.  More than 600 million patients worldwide have been treated with ciprofloxacin since it became available by prescription in 1987. Following the expiration of the patent protection in 2003, there have been several marketed preparations of ciprofloxacin by different marketing authorization holders (generic manufacturers).

Ciprofloxacin has a favorable benefit-risk profile for the approved indications when used in accordance with current product labeling.The product information of ciprofloxacin accurately reflects the benefit-risk profile of this drug in its approved indications and adequately addresses the potential for adverse events, including liver damage.Bayer’s highest priority is patient safety and we closely monitor the safety and efficacy of Cipro on an ongoing basis. Bayer takes all reports of side effects very seriously, investigates them thoroughly, reports them to the relevant health authorities as required.”

The FDA says:”FDA continues to review all safety information for the currently available FDA-approved fluoroquinolones, and they remain safe and effective for their approved indications.  This includes the changes to certain indications introduced in 2016, to reserve fluoroquinolones in patients who have no other options for the treatment of acute bacterial sinusitis, acute bacterial exacerbation of chronic bronchitis, and uncomplicated urinary tract infections.

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