Yet another drug has been linked to the painful and sometimes fatal skin condition Stevens Johnson Syndrome. This time, it’s the fluoroquinolone family, also known as quinolones. These are some of the most prescribed antibiotics in the country and the star of the group is on the hot seat. Cipro may cause Stevens Johnson Syndrome (SJS).
Ciprofloxacin (Cipro and Ciloxin Ophthalmic) is often used to treat bacterial infections such as urinary tract, abdominal, gastrointestinal and respiratory infections. Its popularity stems from its efficacy as a broad-spectrum antibiotic, meaning it works against a wide variety of bacteria as opposed to narrow-spectrum antibiotics, which only work against certain bacterial families. A further reason for Cipro’s widespread use is that it can be taken either orally or intravenously.
Cipro has a long track record, having been approved for use by the FDA in 1987. Bayer Healthcare is the manufacturer. Some lawsuits have already been filed claiming that Bayer Healthcare failed to warn doctors and patients of the risk of developing SJS by using Cipro.
SJS and it’s cousin, Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis (TEN) are skin conditions developed as a result of the body’s allergic reaction to a drug, in this case, Cipro. Therefore, any drug may cause SJS or TEN, but there is an unusually high number of SJS and TEN cases in patients using quinolone drugs, such as Cipro.
SJS is no laughing matter. The disease begins with flu-like symptoms, including fever. These are followed by painful purple and red rashes that blister and spread over the body. The rashes, blisters and lesions eventually kill the patient’s skin, which then begins to peel.
However bad that may sound, SJS can be even worse. It also attacks the mucous membrane, such as mouth, eye and genital tissues, where it forms painful blisters and scars. There have been cases of SJS forming inside the patient’s body on internal organs. Many patients have described this type of SJS as burning from the inside out.
SJS’ cousin TEN is even worse than that, though. When the rash and blisters cause over 30% of the patient’s skin to slough off, the SJS diagnosis is changed to TEN. Upon moving from SJS to TEN, patients are extremely susceptible to infection and sepsis. Further, the mortality rate for TEN is 30 – 40%.
Even if patients survive Cipro SJS or Cipro TEN, the journey to recovery is not over. Typically, patients will need weeks or months of hospitalization in the burn unit. Others may have scars and SJS complications for the rest of their lives. The disease is emotionally and physically damaging, as well as financially difficult. Due to the long hospitalizations and treatment regimens, the cost of Cipro SJS or Cipro TEN is in the thousands of dollars. Most likely, there will be required lifetime medical care for complications from the disease and the permanent injuries it causes, which increases the financial cost.
SJS and TEN are not only physically and emotionally burdensome diseases, but these conditions can also drain a person or family financially. Hospitalization and treatment for Cipro SJS and TEN can cause the patient and their loved ones to go thousands of dollars in debt; even if they survive, the SJS victim may need continuing medical care for SJS complications and permanent injuries caused by the skin reaction.