Background: Premarketing trials showed the fluoroquinolone agents to have a favorable side-effect profile, with treatment-related adverse events comprising gastrointestinal, central nervous system, and dermatologic effects that were generally mild and reversible on cessation of treatment. However, postmarketing surveillance studies have identified severe adverse events, including severe anaphylaxis, QTc-interval prolongation, and potential cardiotoxicity, associated with 3 quinolone agents that either resulted in the removal of the agent from the market (temafloxacin and grepafloxacin) or significantly restricted its use due to substantial mortality and morbidity associated with liver toxicity (trovafloxacin). To date, there have been no such significant adverse events associated with the older fluoroquinolone agents, including ciprofloxacin, ofloxacin, norfloxacin, and levofloxacin. However, there are fewer data from postmarketing surveillance studies on the most recently approved agents, such as moxifloxacin and gatifloxacin, or agents awaiting approval, such as gemifloxacin.
Objective: This paper examines safety data from the premarketing trials and postmarketing surveillance studies of fluoroquinolones available in the United States.
Methods: A MEDLINE search was performed to identify all English-language studies published since 1980 concerning the safety profiles of the fluoroquinolones.
Conclusions: The fluoroquinolone antibacterial agents offer broad-spectrum therapy in patients with a variety of infections. Given similar spectra of activity, the choice between quinolones may be based on differences in efficacy and safety or tolerability profiles. Most drug reactions involving these agents are minor and reversible on discontinuing treatment, but adverse effects can be associated with significant mortality and morbidity, as was seen in the case of trovafloxacin and temafloxacin.