Lethal Bugs - Anthrax

Dangerous to take Cipro if not needed, say doctors Some doctors, pressed by their patients, are prescribing the drug to get them off their backs.

AUSTIN (Texas) - As anthrax jitters spread, doctors across America have warned that it could be dangerous for people to take the powerful antibiotic Cipro just to ease their fears.

Many doctors are resisting the pressure, but some are prescribing the medication "just to get patients off their backs", said Dr Kate Lichtenberg, an osteopath and an assistant professor at St Louis University.

Those who get it are facing some hefty tabs- US$450 (S$820) or more for 100 pills.

"People are snapping it up," Dr Lichtenberg said, even though there are much cheaper drugs, including penicillin and doxycycline, for treating inhaled strains of anthrax.

Taking antibiotics to manage fear is bad on many counts, doctors said. The drugs could adversely interact with another medication the person is taking.

A person also could develop a life threatening reaction to the drug or suffer side-effects.  Cipro's side-effects include diarrhoea, seizures and even anxiety.

Besides, some bacteria could become resistant to the antibiotic, rendering the drug useless when it really is needed.

The run on Cipro, made by Bayer Pharmaceuticals and used primarily for respiratory, gastrointestinal and urinary tract infections, eats into the supply for patients who need it, said Dr Todd Bagwell, an infectious disease specialist in Austin.

Also, "if you have that in the household, a child or a pregnant woman might end up taking it", Dr Bagwell said. Cipro is not recommended for either.

Stockpiling Cipro is "foolish and a significant waste of money", considering the slim possibility of being exposed, said Dr Tom McHorse, president of the Travis County Medical Society.

Why it's dangerous

· The drug could adversely interact with another medication one is taking.

· A person also could develop a life-threatening reaction to the drug or suffer side-effects.

· Some bacteria could become resistant to the drug, rendering it useless when it really is needed.