A risk-benefit assessment of levofloxacin in respiratory, skin and skin structure, and urinary tract infections

Drug Saf. 2001;24(3):199-222. doi: 10.2165/00002018-200124030-00004.


As a class, the quinolone antibacterials can no longer be assumed to be both effective and relatively free of significant adverse effects. Recent safety issues with newer generation fluoroquinolones, and concerns regarding drug-use associated bacterial resistance have made all drugs in this class subject to intense scrutiny and further study. Levofloxacin is a second generation fluoroquinolone with a post marketing history of well tolerated and successful use in a variety of clinical situations. Quinolones as a class cause a variety of adverse effects, including phototoxicity, seizures and other CNS disturbances, tendonitis and arthropathies, gastrointestinal effects, nephrotoxicity, prolonged QTc interval and torsade de pointes, hypo- or hyperglycaemia, and hypersensitivity reactions. Levofloxacin has been involved in only a few case reports of adverse events, which include QTc prolongation, seizures, glucose disturbances, and tendonitis. Levofloxacin has been shown to be effective at dosages of 250mg to 500mg once-daily in clinical trials in the management of acute maxillary sinusitis, acute bacterial exacerbations of chronic bronchitis, community-acquired pneumonia, skin and skin structure infections, and urinary tract infections. There are data suggesting that levofloxacin may promote fluoroquinolone resistance among the Streptococcus pneumoniae, and that clinical failures may result from this therapy. Other data suggest that fluoroquinolones with lower potency against Pseudomonas aeruginosa than ciprofloxacin, such as levofloxacin, may drive class-wide resistance to this pathogen. Levofloxacin is an effective drug in many clinical situations, but its cost is significantly higher than amoxicillin, erythromycin, or first and second generation cefalosporins. Because of the propensity to select for fluoroquinolone resistance in the pneumococcus and potentially other pathogens, levofloxacin should be an alternative agent rather than a drug-of-choice in routine community-acquired respiratory tract, urinary tract, and skin or skin structure infections. In areas with increasing pneumococcal beta-lactam resistance, levofloxacin may be a reasonable empiric therapy in community-acquired respiratory tract infections. Similarly, in patients with risk factors for infectious complications or poor outcome, levofloxacin may be an excellent empiric choice in severe community-acquired respiratory tract infections, urinary tract infections, complicated skin or skin structure infections, and nosocomial respiratory and urinary tract infections. Better clinical data are needed to identify the true place in therapy of the newer fluoroquinolones in common community-acquired and nosocomial infections. Until then, these agents, including levofloxacin, might best be reserved for complicated infections, infection recurrence, and infections caused by beta-lactam or macrolide-resistant pathogens.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Infective Agents / pharmacokinetics
  • Anti-Infective Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Drug Resistance, Microbial / physiology
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions / chemically induced
  • Humans
  • Levofloxacin*
  • Ofloxacin / pharmacokinetics
  • Ofloxacin / therapeutic use*
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / drug therapy*
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / metabolism
  • Risk Assessment / economics
  • Risk Assessment / methods
  • Skin Diseases, Bacterial / drug therapy*
  • Skin Diseases, Bacterial / metabolism
  • Urinary Tract Infections / drug therapy*
  • Urinary Tract Infections / metabolism


  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Levofloxacin
  • Ofloxacin