Anxiety over exposure to anthrax has caused a run on the antibiotic Cipro. Many people have been calling pharmacies trying to get the popular anti-anthrax drug. Doctors warn that taking the antibiotic before getting anthrax can do more harm than good.
There are three types of antibiotics that have been approved for anthrax: ciprofloxacin (Cipro), tetracyclines (including doxycycline), and penicillin.
For people who have been exposed to anthrax but do not have symptoms, 60 days of one of these antibiotics is given to reduce the risk or progression of disease due to inhaled anthrax.
Under emergency plans, the federal government would ship appropriate antibiotics from its stockpile to wherever they are needed.
Although the FDA does not regulate the practice of medicine, the agency is strongly recommending that physicians not prescribe Cipro for individual patients to have on hand for possible use against inhaled anthrax. In addition to the potential influence on supply of the drug, indiscriminate prescribing and widespread use of Cipro could hasten the development of drug-resistant organisms.
Even though the antibiotic Cipro has been approved by the FDA for treating anthrax, it's only effective after initial exposure to the virus and before the appearance of symptoms. The recommended dose is two 500-milligram pills a day for 60 days. Getting a prescription from a doctor is essential because the drug can cause side effects like nausea and vomiting.
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