The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has strengthened warnings for fluoroquinolone class of antibiotics in wake of findings that such drugs can cause mental health problems and serious blood sugar disturbances, including hypoglycemia coma in people with diabetes.

Fluoroquinolone class of antibiotics is among the most widely used in India, where hundreds of generic versions of the drugs are available.

Fluoroquinolones are antibiotics that are commonly used to treat a variety of illnesses such as respiratory and urinary tract infections. The medicines include ciprofloxacin, gemifloxacin, levofloxacin, moxifloxacin, norfloxacin, and ofloxacin.

The new safety warnings are for all fluoroquinolones, including those taken by mouth or injected.

India is the world’s largest consumer of antibiotics. Use of the drugs has more than doubled between 2000 and 2015. Against a global antibiotic increase of 65%, India reported a 103% increase, revealed a study by Princeton University.

Former national president of the Indian Medical Association, K.K. Aggarwal, said: “Antibiotics are only effective against bacterial infections. Several studies have corroborated the adverse impact of antibiotic overuse on health.”

“Misuse and overuse of antibiotics have made once easily treatable bacterial infections harder and often impossible to cure because bacteria evolve rapidly to evade antibiotics, leading to drug resistance,” Dr, Aggarwal said.

“This phenomenon is on the rise not only because of inappropriate use of antibiotics in human medicine but also due to practices in the agricultural industry,” he added.

The IMA has held workshops and awareness sessions for doctors to ensure over-prescribing of antibiotic is avoided.

Twenty-four potent antibiotics are included in India’s Schedule H1 of the Drugs and Cosmetic Rules that make it mandatory for the medicines to have red-line labelling and for the pharmacist to keep a separate register with the name and address of the prescriber, patient’s name, name of the drug and the quantity supplied.

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