Q. I was prescribed the generic antibiotic Levaquin (levofloxacin) on 6/25/13 for “walking pneumonia.” The doctor did not provide any information about the drug. The prescription was for one a day for 10 days.

After two days (2 pills) I was in such extreme pain throughout my entire body that I could not walk, get up or go down stairs. I was in a wheelchair for a week and had to use a walker for a couple of weeks more. The pain in my joints, especially my neck, upper shoulders, lower back, legs, knees, etc. was almost unbearable.

It has now been almost eight months and I am still experiencing joint pains that seem to move around my body: one day my neck hurts; another day it’s my knees, thighs, hamstrings; then my back is affected.

When the pains began, I tried to contact the doctor. I left messages with her office that I could not tolerate the Levaquin and to please give me something else.  She apparently was calling the wrong number, (the office had both my numbers!) and never spoke to me.  Finally, after taking 6 of the pills, I decided to stop as I figured I’d be dead with 4 more!

Upon returning to the doctor a week after my first visit, I told her of my experience and that I had stopped taking the antibiotic.  She insisted my side effect reactions had nothing to do with the Levaquin and were not a result of this drug!  She told me to take 800mg of ibuprofen three times a day for the pain.

A month later in July I saw my orthopedist.  He could offer no help, but his nurse shared with me that she had had the same side effects from Levaquin and that it had been a year and she was still experiencing joint pains all over; one day here, another day there.

Going on the Internet I discovered that many other people have suffered the same side effects as I had…some for years!  I called the FDA to report the above, but was not able to get any of the required information from the pharmacy (no manufacturer, expiration date, Lot.#, etc.). I completed 5 pages of information on the FDA’s MedWatch form about side effects and such and faxed them to the FDA.  I also discovered there are some 3400 lawsuits regarding levofloxacin.

A. You are not the first person to report serious complications from levofloxacin (Levaquin). This is an antibiotic in the class called fluoroquinolones (FQs) or quinolones for short. Other medications include ciprofloxacin (Cipro), levofloxacin (Levaquin) and moxifloxacin (Avelox).

You are also correct that it is hard to complete the FDA’s MedWatch forms because it is almost impossible to get the essential information they demand (manufacturer, expiration date, Lot # and NDC number).

Here are some other somewhat similar experiences posted to our website:

“I was taking a 30-day prescription of Cipro for a prostate infection. After playing full court basketball, I awoke the next morning to knees that felt as though they were encased in concrete.

“My legs constantly ache as if I had just walked 20 miles.  Many nights I cannot sleep due to the pain in my legs and, for now, I cannot play basketball as the left knee area, in particular, is too weak.

“Ever since that time (20 months ago) I have suffered in every way imaginable. Sometimes I cannot even walk up my apartment stairs. I have seen my doctor, an acupuncturist and chiropractors. No one can make it go away. This has totally impacted my life, since I can’t play tennis and have a very hard time playing basketball. Do you have a suggestion?” Doug


“I took this medicine four years ago. I was also very physically active before taking it. After 7 days on the med, I developed body-wide tendon and nerve damage that has yet to improve. There are literally thousands of people who have been crippled.” Greg


“I had a similar experience with Cipro. I took it a year and a half ago and have had terrible joint problems ever since. The problems started almost immediately after taking Cipro. I’ve had to spend thousands on tests, physical therapy and doctors’ visits. The worst is my feet and ankles hurt so bad that walking is difficult now. I can no longer exercise without suffering days of pain. All this time, there is some improvement but much of the damage is permanent.” D.B.


“I took Levaquin on Nov.14, 2012. After 6 pills I had Achilles tendonitis, small tears, muscle aches and joint pain all over. Two years later I am still suffering from tendonitis, bursitis in my shoulder joints, fatigue and insomnia. I never ached so much in my life and it continues to get worse. I walk with a cane. There is numbness in my foot and leg diagnosed as neuropathy. Levaquin was prescribed for suspected urinary tract infection. It was contraindicated with my other meds and my age. This just should not be.

“This drug has caused permanent damage and ended most of my life activities. Doctors need to be informed what this med does and care about the consequences. I hope this antibiotic gets off the market or is used only in a life or death situation.” L.P.


We could provide dozens of other stories, but by now you have the idea. According to the Food and Drug Administration, more than 21 million people get a prescription for a quinolone antibiotic each year. Such drugs are prescribed for sinusitis, urinary tract infections, bronchitis, pneumonia, prostatitis and skin infections. Cipro has been around for decades.

The FDA issued an alert about FQs last year about neuropathy:

“This serious nerve damage potentially caused by fluoroquinolones may occur soon after these drugs are taken and may be permanent… Peripheral neuropathy is a nerve disorder occurring in the arms or legs. Symptoms include pain, burning, tingling, numbness, weakness, or a change in sensation to light touch, pain or temperature, or the sense of body position. It can occur at any time during treatment with fluoroquinolones and can last for months to years after the drug is stopped or be permanent. Patients using fluoroquinolones who develop any symptoms of peripheral neuropathy should tell their health care professionals right away.”

In addition to the nerve damage, these drugs can cause lots of other serious complications, including tendinitis or even tendon rupture. When this happens it can be a life-altering event. Joint pain and arthritis-like adverse reactions are not generally recognized as a complication of quinolones in adults, though they have been noted in children. We tend to believe the people who have reported this problem on our website rather than the official prescribing information for these antibiotics. It has taken the FDA decades to acknowledge the problems with tendons and nerves, so we would not be surprised if it takes years more for the agency to recognize the joint complications.

Unlike many of the people who have reported problems on this website, we are not calling for the banning of quinolone antibiotics. Goodness knows, we are running out of effective medications against serious infections given the degree of bacterial resistance that has evolved over the years. But doctors must inform patients of potential fluoroquinolone side effects BEFORE people start taking such drugs. Here is a list to be aware of:

Fluoroquinolone Side Effects and Complications:

  • Digestive distress, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, stomach pain, heartburn, vomiting
  • Headache, dizziness
  • Agitation, anxiety, irritability, restlessness, confusion
  • Insomnia
  • Tendon problems, tendinitis, tendon rupture
  • Retinal detachment
  • Nerve damage, peripheral neuropathy, nerve tingling, numbness
  • Allergic reactions, skin rash, anaphylaxis (life-threatening reaction requiring immediate medical attention!)
  • Super-infections including C. diff diarrhea
  • Hallucinations, psychosis, seizures
  • Depression, suicidal thoughts or actions
  • Irregular heart rhythms, torsades de pointes, QT prolongation
  • Kidney or liver damage
  • Blood disorders
  • Arthritis, muscle pain, weakness

Share your own experience with FQ antibiotics below. We want to hear the pros and cons of such drugs. Let others know how such medications worked for you and what, if any, side effects you have experienced.

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  1. Jeff
    Texas
    Reply

    OMG! Why doesn’t the FDA take these drugs off the market? I was prescribed Levofloxacin 500 mg once a day for 7 days for a severe sinus infection. After 3 days I started aching all over like the flu so figured I should keep taking the antibiotic. The next day I couldn’t lift my arms. They felt like lead, and my shoulder pain was unbearable. I was so dizzy I couldn’t stand without holding onto something. Well, being a “dummy,” I finished off the rx this morning.

    I had no idea that the FDA had issued an alert on the medicine. I would have never taken it. My PCP never mentioned it. I had taken this drug before with no side effects, but I guess it’s like not being allergic to something one minute and allergic the next. I just wonder how long it actually takes to wear out of your system. I see above that some people are still having symptoms years later. I thought the purpose of the FDA was to protect us.

  2. Robyn
    Butler, PA
    Reply

    I took levaquin for 5 days for pneumonia. The day after I completed my medicine I could barely get out of bed. My knees hurt so badly, and they felt like hundred-pound weights were on them. THEY FELT STIFF AND SWOLLEN. It has been difficult at work as I am in nursing. I REFUSE TO LET THIS MED TAKE OVER MY LIFE, BUT THIS IS A REAL BATTLE.

  3. Paul
    Texas
    Reply

    I was prescribed Levaquin 2X for diverticulosis about 5 or 6 years ago. Shortly thereafter, I suffered two partially torn Achilles’ tendons and a torn left hip tendon. These injuries are very painful and are now recurring. From time to time I need to wear a “boot” to immobilize my left foot to allow for healing. My orthopedic surgeon told me to expect it to take up to a year for a partially torn Achilles’ tendon to heal. My mobility has been dramatically impacted by this terrible drug!

  4. Bob
    Indiana
    Reply

    Prescribed Levofloxacin April 2016… now Feb 17, 2017 and still have tendinitis. Tried all sorts of things, diet, exercise, vitamin C, K2, D3 etc. (from article i’ve read) Today just found something new to try… CoQ10 and Liquid Magnesium. Hope it works cause this pain sucks and I am too young to be 80+ already.

  5. Patricia
    Ashburn,VA
    Reply

    I was prescribed Levaquin in January 2017. I was told of the Achilles pain but suffered such insomnia that stopped taking. Recently I started getting discomfort in my right Achilles. I thought it was from taking cycling class but I thought how could that be since I stopped taking the med over a month ago. After reading these stories I would go to a doctor but it appears all of you have but to no avail. I will start a class action suit but will need to do some research.

  6. Jacqueline F
    Australia
    Reply

    I sympathize with everyone who has been affected by this terrible drug. I was prescribed levofloxacin 500mg, one a day for 10 days in concert with amoxicillin and one other drug for a stomach ulcer, because previous treatment failed.

    Levofloxacin is not generally available for sale in Australia but 10 capsules were made up for me by a compounding pharmacist here, who told me he gets a small $1000 vial of the stuff at a time from America! I stopped taking it after four days! I had nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, swollen stomach, acute constipation, pain in my shoulders and arms, excruciating pain in my feet, ankles and calfs – still do and can barely walk, blurry vision, depressed that I have no inclination to go out or even talk to my friends or neighbours.

    Cry so much it’s crazy because I’m usually a positive happy person. My ulcer pain was nothing compared to this. I’ll keep taking the other two drugs but never will I take another Levofloxacin. I’m not complaining but just writing to let you know you’re not alone. Take care everyone. Sending you best wishes and big gentle hugs xo

  7. Robin
    Alabama
    Reply

    I was prescribed Levoquin on Feb. 6, 2017. It has turned my life upside down. My knees and shoulders are giving me such awful pain. It’s almost bearable to get up and down. Steps nearly impossible. I hope this is reversible!

  8. Robin
    Alabama
    Reply

    I started taking the drug on Feb. 6. It’s now Feb. 14. I can hardly move. My knees, ankles and shoulders have all been affected. I just hope this goes away.

  9. Glen
    Orlando, Florida
    Reply

    I have taken only 3 750mg doses of a 7 day regimen for a sinus infection and suddenly developed severe neck pain and stiffness in my upper neck. I had read the inserts and so was aware but not unduly concerned until the symptoms appeared today. I am ending he course and calling my GP tomorrow. I am male, 64, and otherwise in good health. The neck pain and stiffness feels as though I slept wrong but is more intense, and appeared mid-afternoon with no precursor activity, and is bilateral and high in the neck/occipital area.

  10. Karen
    Pennsylvania
    Reply

    I was prescribed Levaquin years ago for an upper respiratory infection. I have also been on Cipro in the past for UTI’s. It started off with pain in my wrist a few years ago. Today i have pain everywhere, from my wrist, to my shoulder, back and feet. I am only 41 and I feel like I am 81. This is not normal and I am so afraid it will only get worse. Some days I can’t even get up from sitting on the couch. At the rate I’m going I swear I will be in a wheelchair by 45. I’m sick of taking pain meds. Something has to be done. It is getting worse all the time.

  11. Ranjana
    Delhi
    Reply

    One tab of levofloxacin tab gave me swollen face itching in body. Headache that lasted for 24 hrs. Stomach upset. Had to rush to hospital to get emergency treatment

  12. LAURIE
    Louisiana
    Reply

    I was hospitalized twice in 2016, each lasting six weeks, for a severe infection from a knee replacement. Each time, I was given levofloxacin. Both times, I experienced severe pain in my shoulders, to the point that if felt as though my arms were being ripped off my body. I did report this to my doctor and they said it was probably a side effect and should eventually subside.

    It has been four months and the pain is still as bad as ever, making it almost impossible to sleep or anything else. I have also developed severe pain in both wrists and fingers. My thumbs are also crooking over and locking up. I have had cortisone injections, which have not helped at all. This is extremely painful and makes it difficult to write, pick up objects, etc. I am hoping this side effect will eventually go away.

  13. NANCY
    island heights, nj
    Reply

    I took Cipro several years ago and developed severe pain in the tendons of my lower legs. I have RA and take prednisone and should never have been given the drug. This month i was given Levaquin and was assured by my Dr. and 2 pharmacists that i could have it. I asked if it was related to Cipro and was told no. I now have the worst pain of my life. I can barely move and after reading these comments, I’m worried that I’ll never improve.

  14. Mikie
    Reply

    I was on Levaquin for 6 days. I stopped before the last 4 doses because I had extreme joint, muscle and limb pain. My vision became fuzzy at the computer. Brain fog was another complaint. I was prescribed this drug for a sinus infection. The otolargingologist laughed when I told her I thought I had torn a ligament in my knee.

    She said if that were the case I couldn’t walk at all. It has been 2 1/2 weeks since I stopped taking Levaquin. I can only take the stairs one at a time with excruciating pain in my legs, left ankle and back. Last year we rode bikes through South America.

    This day, I can barely put one foot in front of the other without pain. I have trouble sleeping. (if you can see the time it is 2a.m.EST) Will these symptoms abate? Will I feel human again and will the depression clear up. I can’t live like this.

  15. Carrie
    Ohio
    Reply

    I was given Leviquin in Oct 2016. It is feb 2017, and my life has never been the same. My pneumonia is gone of course but the joint pain is unbelievable. Orthapediic spots, RA appts all are taxing. From neck to toes, everyday is different. ☹️ Something has to be done.

    • Loretta
      Reply

      Yes, I agree something has to be done.

  16. Sherry
    Birmingham, Alabama
    Reply

    I was prescribed Levaquin January 3, 2017, after 7 pills of a 10 day regimen, on day 7 the pain in my entire body was so unbearable, I thought that I was dying, I stopped after the 7th pill and I still feel horrible, my body hurts all over and nothing helps, I am being treated for neuropathy, spinal stenosis going thru physical therapy. We all need to ban together find an attorney and sue this company who still has this deadly medication on the market….My quality of life is horrible, I never have a good day any more….I never feel like doing anything, my energy levels are drained even upon awaking from a decent night sleep ( of course with taking something to make me sleep) we deserve compensation for this and this medication needs to banned from EVER being given to any one else…..I am ready to make a move, is anyone with me ….I am tired of hurting and feeling horrible.

    • Mike
      virginia
      Reply

      I took 2 dosage of leviquin in June 2016 and experienced severe joint pain in my arms and legs including burning. Severe muscle weakness throughout my body. cannot lift or do anything normal. All the tests came negative and not sure how long will this last. The pain seem to get worse in cold weather.

      • Sheila
        Oregon
        Reply

        I so understand what you are feeling. I was in the hospital being treated for bacterial pneumonia. After going home I wasn’t improving so my GP gave me (generic for) Levaquin 800mg, 10 day supply…I took it all but seem to start having cramps and weakness in my legs, arms, back shoulders, also my hands shake and I can’t control it…I also have fibromyalsia and thought it was from that…I have never experienced any pain like that in the past 4 years of being diagnosed with Fibromyalsia.

        I went to my Dr again about a month later…she told me after having me push my leg in her hand, that it didn’t seem there was any tendon tears…..but that I should take Ibprofen for the pain! I did and it didn’t even touch the extreme pain I was experiencing!! I am 65 but I have always been able to push through the Fibro and get around fairly well. This is different!!

        I went back to see her, and my husband had to wheel chair me in….she gave me gavapentin for the nerves so I could sleep at night. after a little over a week, I called and told her it was’t working, so she had me double the Gavapentin. I am on a walker because trying to get from one place to another is so difficult…I am so sorry others are suffering from the effects of this medicine…I understand I needed gorilla-cillin to fight the bacteria, but couldn’t something less harmful be better?

        Some of the medical people might not know what this drug is doing to people….I know I am not the same and might never be! It has affected my job performance, my home life, my self care, and my relationships. Please help us find a different recourse for others and help us treat these symptoms that are ruining our lives!!

    • NANCY
      Reply

      I’ll join in on the law suit. This drug has ruined my life.

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