August 14, 2012 — Researchers are calling for new warnings about the risk of liver injury associated with two popular antibiotics, Avelox (moxifloxacin) and Levaquin (levofloxacin). The study, published in the Canadican Medical Association Journal found that Avelox was linked to a two-fold increased risk of hospital admission for acute liver injury. The researchers stressed that the risk is still small, but the injury was very serious and even deadly in many cases.
The authors of the study collected and analyzed medical records from 144 people who went to the hospital in Ontario between 2002 and 2011 due to liver injury. Unfortunately, the majority of the patients (61.1%) died due to their liver injury. All of the patients were at least 65 years old, had no history of liver problems, and had been using Avelox or comparable antibiotics for a month or less.
According to the researchers, “Avelox was associated with a more than two-fold increased risk of admission to the hospital for liver injury.” The increased risk was in comparison to clarithromycin, another antibiotic that is not associated with liver toxicity but treats similar diseases. Avelox and Levaquin are commonly prescribed to treat respiratory infections and sinus infections.
Liver injury is still a relatively rare side effect of the antibiotics, affecting just 6 per 100,000 people who take the drugs. However, there are many types of antibiotics, some of which may be equally effective at treating certain diseases but with different risks of side effects. If doctors knew the risk-benefit, they would likely choose the safer drug.
Unfortunately, there is a lack of research regarding the comparable safety or effectiveness of many antibiotics regarding liver damage and liver failure.
Even so, Health Canada and the European Medicines Agency have both issued safety warnings about the risk of liver damage associated with Avelox.
The researchers hope that their study will be followed by more studies of antibiotics and liver toxicity. Furthermore, they said, “Although our results require confirmation in other settings, the findings suggest that both moxifloxacin and levofloxacin be considered for regulatory warnings regarding acute liver injury.”
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