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Patients Reporting Serious Adverse Reactions To Popular Antibiotics

DENVER (CBS4) - There is growing concern about some of the most popular antibiotics that are prescribed to cure everything from earaches to life-threatening bacterial infections. Some patients say the drugs are making them sicker.

At his dining room table with his family watching, Michael Kaferly slowly injected a powerful antioxidant called glutathione.

"Just like Popeye I say, 'This is my spinach … makes me better," Kaferly said.

For Kaferly, "better" is hard to come by.

"I have a burning pain, a numb-tingly pain," he said. "I have a ripping pain, especially in my heart."

He traces it back to September 2008 when he took the antibiotic Levaquin for a cough.

"After the first pill I noticed that I wasn't able to follow conversations with coworkers," Kaferly said. "I woke up on Oct. 6, 2008 and I couldn't feel my legs."

The former IT specialist can't work anymore. The once athletic father dropped 60 pounds.

Michael Kaferly
Michael Kaferly (credit: CBS)

"All I wanted to do was go hold my little boy before I died and let him know who I was," Kaferly said.

His case is extreme, but thousands of patients have reported adverse reactions to Levaquin. It's one of a popular class of antibiotics called fluoroquinolones. In 2011 Lisa Bloomquist took the fluoroquinolone called ciproflaxacin for a urinary tract infection. She said she developed vision problems, memory loss and painful joints.

"I went from going to the gym every day to barely being able to walk," Bloomquist said.

She says she's mostly recovered and manages the fluoroquinolone wall of pain.

(credit: CBS)

"People's lives are being destroyed by these drugs, and it's not okay," Bloomquist said.

Fluoroquinolones have a black box warning from the Food and Drug Administration for tendon damage and nerve damage -- possibly permanent. Up to 23 million prescriptions are filled in a year, and some experts say inappropriately.

"We are talking about going into the physician's office, having a little sniffle, walking out with an antibiotic, and shortly thereafter having these kinds of problems," Dr. Charles Bennett said.

Bennett is one of the leading watchdogs for prescription drugs. He wants the FDA to expand the warning to include mitochondrial toxicity -- meaning damage can occur within a patient's cells, and possibly lead to Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, or ALS.

Kaferly can't change the past, so he fights for a future.

"I wake up every day knowing I'm somebody's father and I'm not going to let this thing kill me," he said.

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