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What You Should Know About Cipro

Christine Truong
Doctor of Pharmacy Candidate, 2002
Virginia Commonwealth University/Medical College of Virginia

Before September 11, most Americans had never heard of anthrax or Cipro. Now many Americans are washing their hands after opening their mail and Cipro has become a common household word. Recent events have brought fear and uncertainty to our country. People are feeling helpless and want to protect themselves and their loved ones.

The number of anthrax cases has increased since the September 11 terrorist attacks. Sales of antibiotics, especially Cipro, have also jumped. Some people are asking their doctors to prescribe antibiotics for them, even though they are not sick. Some are also turning to the Internet to try to buy Cipro without a prescription. Having Cipro on hand seems to give people a sense of control during these troubling times. Like all medicines, antibiotics can be very helpful and even life saving. But there are also risks involved with taking them.

Cipro Is Not a Security Blanket
Cipro, also known as ciprofloxacin, is an antibiotic used for various infections and was approved last year to treat anthrax. Cipro is only helpful when it is used to treat a person who is infected or may have been exposed to anthrax. Cipro does not work like a vaccine, so it cannot prevent someone from getting infected with anthrax.

The Problem with Resistance
A person should never take an antibiotic unless they really need it. This is because there is always the danger that bacteria might build up resistance to the antibiotic. Then the medicine may not work as well or may not work at all. These resistant bacteria could then spread to others. This could be a big problem for people who may need Cipro in the future.

Why Stockpiling is Not a Good Idea
Stockpiling could also create problems. Many people are spending hundreds of dollars on medicines that they may not need. Bayer AG, the maker of Cipro, has already increased its production of the medicine. Also, the FDA has approved other widely available antibiotics, doxycycline and penicillin G procaine, which can also be used to treat anthrax. Stockpiling may prevent people who really need the medicine from getting it. Another thing to keep in mind is that the medicine may not work if it expires or if it is not stored correctly. These are reasons why people do not need to stockpile Cipro at home.

Cipro is Not for Everyone
Certain groups of people should talk to their doctors and pharmacists before taking Cipro:

  • Those under the age of 18. Since children are still growing, Cipro may cause damage to their joints.
  • Women who are pregnant and women who are breast-feeding because unborn children and infants may be harmed.
  • People who have seizures or those taking medicines for seizures.
  • People taking other medicines such as theophylline and coumadin, because of possible drug interactions.
  • People allergic to Cipro.
  • People with kidney problems.

Tips for Using Cipro
If a person has been exposed to anthrax and their doctor prescribes Cipro, they should talk to their doctor or pharmacist to learn more about this medicine. Cipro is helpful when taken within a few days after being exposed to anthrax. Therefore, it is very important to contact a doctor when symptoms first appear or when it is suspected that a person has been exposed to anthrax.

Here are some important tips to keep in mind to get the most from the medicine:

  • Take Cipro with a full 8 ounce glass of water. It is important to drink plenty of water while taking this medicine.
  • Cipro should not be taken with antacids containing calcium, magnesium or aluminum. Do not take any other products, such as vitamins, containing calcium, iron, or zinc with Cipro. If it is necessary to take these antacids or vitamins, take them 6 hours before or 2 hours after taking Cipro. This is because they may prevent the body from absorbing the antibiotic.
  • It is better to take Cipro 2 hours after eating a meal. However if stomach upset occurs, Cipro may be taken with food.
  • Dairy products such as milk and yogurt can lower the amount of medicine the body absorbs and should not be taken at the same time as Cipro.
  • Cipro may increase the effects of caffeine, such as jitteriness. Therefore limit the amount of caffeine products such as coffee, caffeinated sodas, and teas.

As with most medicines, side effects may occur with Cipro. Here is some important information about Cipro and its side effects:

  • Some side effects are nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and headache.
  • Stop taking Cipro if an allergic reaction occurs, such as skin rash, swelling of the face, or problems breathing.
  • While on Cipro, avoid too much sunlight or artificial ultraviolet light, like a tanning bed. Cipro may cause the skin to be more sensitive to these lights. Stop taking Cipro and call your doctor if you develop a skin rash.
  • If you develop pain or swelling of the tendon around a joint, be sure to tell your doctor. If you are exercising and develop heel pain, stop exercising immediately and call your doctor.
  • Cipro may cause dizziness and drowsiness. People should not drive a car or operate machinery until they know how their body reacts to this medicine.
  • Stop taking Cipro if tremors or hallucinations occur.
  • Although diarrhea may occur with most antibiotics, this may be a sign of a more serious problem. If you develop severe watery diarrhea, call your doctor immediately.

People should always check with their doctors or pharmacists to know what the side effects are and what to do if they occur.

The Problem With Self-Treating
Having medicine on hand may tempt people to self-treat. They may treat the wrong illness. This may result in a condition getting worse because it is left unchecked by a doctor.

The Importance of the Flu Shot
That is why it is important not to take a medicine without first visiting a doctor. A doctor would decide if the right medicine is used to treat the illness. In addition, the flu season is starting, and it would be difficult for people to tell if they have symptoms of the flu or anthrax. It is important to get the flu shot this year because people can protect themselves from getting the flu. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends flu shots, especially for the following high-risk groups:

Here are some important tips to keep in mind to get the most from the medicine:

  • People over 65
  • People with chronic diseases such as heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease, and diabetes
  • People with lower immune systems, such as persons with HIV or persons on chemotherapy
  • Women who are at least 3 months pregnant during the flu season
  • People living in nursing homes or long-term care facilities
  • Those between ages 6 months to 18 years who are on aspirin therapy

Through all this fear of anthrax, it is important to remain calm. Americans should not forget that anthrax is still very rare as compared to the flu. Between 10,000 to 40,000 people die each year due to complications of the flu. Another thing is to be informed and keep updated on the news. In these confusing times, it is hard to know what to do to protect oneself from an unknown threat. People should be cautious. They should talk with their doctors and pharmacists before self-treating with any medicine. Cipro can only be life saving when used in the correct way.

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