Comparative tolerability of the newer fluoroquinolone antibacterials

Drug Saf. 1999 Nov;21(5):407-21. doi: 10.2165/00002018-199921050-00005.


The most common adverse effects of the fluoroquinolones involve the gastrointestinal tract, skin and CNS, and are mainly mild and reversible. Of the gastrointestinal events, nausea and vomiting are the most common. Mild hepatic reactions are a class effect, usually presenting as mild transaminase level increases without clinical symptoms. However, postmarketing surveillance has revealed significant hepatotoxicity with trovafloxacin. It is not currently known whether the severe reactions to trovafloxacin are specific to that agent or simply represent an extreme of an emerging class effect. The enormous worldwide usage of, and extensive published adverse effect data on the other fluoroquinolones and naphthyridones suggests the former. In perspective, rare but serious hepatotoxicity has been reported with other fluoroquinolones and the overall incidence of trovafloxacin hepatotoxicity is not dissimilar to that reported with flucloxacillin and amoxicillin-clavulanic acid. CNS reactions vary in severity and include dizziness, convulsions (notably with lomefloxacin) and psychoses. Fluoroquinolones differ in their pro-convulsive activity, relating to their differing potential as gamma-aminobutyric acid antagonists and binding to the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor. The basis for the increased seizure potential following the coadministration of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs with certain fluoroquinolones is not fully understood. Fluoroquinolone phototoxicity, caused by the generation of toxic free oxygen species under exposure to UVA radiation, is significantly more common with 8-halogenated compounds. Certain patient groups, e.g. patients with cystic fibrosis, are predisposed to this adverse effect. Murine photocarcinogenicity has been demonstrated with lomefloxacin, but no such effects have been reported in humans. Prolongation of the QTc interval is also a class effect, although cardiac arrhythmias have only been linked with sparfloxacin. Among the newer fluoroquinolones, clinically significant cardiac events are rare or absent but possible interactions in patients receiving other drugs capable of causi ng QT prolongation should be anticipated. Tendinitis and rupture, usually of the Achilles tendon, are rare, class-effects of fluoroquinolones, most frequently reported with pefloxacin. Predisposing factors include aging, corticosteroid use, renal disease, haemodialysis and transplantation. Use of fluoroquinolones in paediatric patients remains contentious. However, accruing human data suggest that restrictions on paediatric use imposed because of fluoroquinolone-induced cartilage damage in juvenile animals, may soon be relaxed. Data from over 1700 children in the UK failed to disclose arthropathy and extensive paediatric use of norfloxacin in Japan and ciprofloxacin in developing countries has been free of articular effects.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Infective Agents / adverse effects*
  • Cardiovascular System / drug effects
  • Chemical and Drug Induced Liver Injury / metabolism*
  • Chemical and Drug Induced Liver Injury / physiopathology
  • Fluoroquinolones*
  • Humans
  • Naphthyridines / adverse effects
  • Nausea / chemically induced
  • Product Surveillance, Postmarketing


  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Fluoroquinolones
  • Naphthyridines
  • trovafloxacin